January 3, 2009

Bankrupt Mine-Safety Reporting Continues

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised any more when a Bush-bad, Dems-good meme refuses to die in the face of withering facts.

Ken Ward Jr. played a now-familiar tune about mine safety at the Charleston Gazette-Mail yesterday:

Sago families look to Obama
Three years after fatal mine blast, reformers turn to new administration

….. Three years ago this morning, an explosion ripped through International Coal Group’s Sago Mine, located outside Buckhannon in Upshur County.

Within hours, the national media had focused on 13 missing miners. Twelve of those workers died before rescuers could reach them 40 hours later. Only Randal McCloy Jr. survived.

The disaster – West Virginia’s worst in nearly 40 years – was the first of four major coal-mining accidents over the next 18 months. Three weeks later, two more miners died in Massey Energy’s Aracoma Alma No. 1 Mine.

In May 2006, five workers died in an explosion at the Kentucky Darby Mine. In August 2007, nine miners died in a cave-in at Murray Energy’s Crandall Canyon operation in Utah.

In response, there’s been a flurry of new laws, tougher regulations and demands for increased inspections and enforcement. Much progress has been made. Last year, for example, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration for the first time completed all of its mandated quarterly inspections of underground coal mines nationwide.

Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., pushed for additional funding to replace MSHA inspection jobs that had been cut by Bush.

….. And despite improvements, many critics say MSHA remains a troubled agency damaged by Bush administration budget cuts and efforts to replace tough enforcement with industry-friendly “compliance assistant” programs.

“President-elect Obama needs to re-orient MSHA entirely,” said Nathan Fetty, a mine safety lawyer with the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment. “MSHA needs leadership who wants to tackle the biggest health and safety problems facing miners without waiting for a court or Congress to tell the agency to act.”

This is about as clear-cut a case of not letting facts get in the way of a good story as you’ll ever see. It has been beaten to within an inch of its life at several BizzyBlog posts over the past few years, particularly this one from a couple of days after the Sago tragedy in January 2006.

Suffice it to say that there has never been a visible let-up in inspection effort, and the Bush record, when compared to the Clinton record in this hastily-assembled graphic, proves it:

MiningFatalities1994to2008

Clinton responsibility goes through 2001 because his last budget controlled what the MSHA could do that year (if you gave 2001 to Bush, the Clinton record would look worse). Similarly, Bush will still have responsibility for 2009.

Not shown: 2008′s nearly-finalized total of 51 fatalities in all mining activities (29 coal; 22 metal/non-metal) is the lowest on record.

I have similar data with similar results relating to non-fatal injuries, and will have more to say on this topic in the coming days.

Parting shot: Didn’t the “someone” that the Sago families are looking to for “help” say something about bankrupting new coal mines? Why, yes he did.

Well, miners will certainly be “safe” if they’re not working, won’t they?

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UPDATE: While I’m in the neighborhood, let me remind Mr. Fetty that a federal government agency should only be doing things Congress has authorized it to do, not sit around dreaming up all kinds of things it might want to do.

UPDATE, Jan. 5 — Source data is from this page at the MSHA for coal fatalities and this one for metal/non-metal.
This is the detail, inelegantly presented:

MineFatalitiesAnnualDetail1994to2008

Positivity: Couple Gives Birth To Rare Twins, Again

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:52 am

From Great Britain (video is at link):

Jan. 2, 2009

A British couple has defied the odds again by giving birth to a second set of black and white twin girls.

“I was as blown away as the rest of them, you know, there is no easy way to explain it all. I feel like I’m still in shock myself even though the first ones were seven years ago. It’s amazing, but we just love them the same,” says Dean Durrant, the father.

As CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports, Alison Spooner and Durrant welcomed daughters Lauren and Hayleigh into the world seven years ago. Lauren takes after her white mother, while Hayleigh, takes after her father.

When the couple announced earlier this year that they were having another set of twins, they didn’t think lightening would strike twice.

“I honestly didn’t think that it would happen again.I thought that we’d have two of the same. Well I didn’t think that we’d have twins again for a start,” Spooner says.

This time, baby Miya has her father’s dark skin, while Leah looks like her mother.

Doctors say the phenomenon is so rare, that there are no statistics to illustrate the probability of it happening. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.