I. The worst American mining tragedy in over a generation occurred this past week in West Virginia. Had the mine spent about a half million dollars on safety measures, the miners would probably be alive. The mine's owners and CEO donated over twice that amount - around a million dollars - to the Tea Party this past year. They've spent far more than that over the past few years, lobbying to keep their mines the deathtraps they certainly are.
I'm going to be asking teabaggers at the Wasilla April 15th event how they feel about being subsidized by a guy who gets away with murder.
Even nuttier than the Tea Party's support by people like Massey CEO Don Blankenship was a demonstration late this week in Charleston, West Virginia, by members of the notorious Westboro Baptiust Church, who were protesting outside of a memorial service for murdered miners. The Westboro Baptist Church is a great example of how so-called Christians can be utterly sick in their actions. Here's a description from the local paper:
[Church members were protesting] to tell the world that the reason the Upper Big Branch Coal Mine accident happened is because God is punishing America for tolerating homosexuality. A message on the Westboro Baptist Church website on Thursday reportedly read: “So God reached down and smacked one of those mines, killing 25.” According to the Charleston Gazette, ”Only six Westboro pickets showed up in front of the Capitol, including two men, one woman and three young children. They held up signs proclaiming: “America Is Doomed,” “Thank God for Dead Miners,” “God Hates Your Tears,” “God Hates West Virginia” and “God Hates You.”
Locals broke up the Westboro affair:
II. Coal development and mining is an Alaska issue too. Up in the Mat-Su Valley, the Usibelli Coal Company has applied to the Borough for a lease modification:
The Matanuska-Susitna Borough (MSB), Land Management Division, has received a request from Usibelli Coal Mine, Inc., (UCM) to modify their existing lease which provides for physical and legal access across borough-owned property.
The Lessee’s proposed modification to the current lease identified as MSB 001803 includes:
1) a provision allowing the lessee, in their sole discretion, to have the option to renew the lease for successive like terms by giving written notice 60 days prior to expiration of this lease;
2) a provision requiring reappraisal of the borough property and cost adjustment based on fair market value at Lessee’s expense;
3) a provision to upgrade access road construction plans;
4) a provision to post a letter of credit and performance bond;
5) a provision to procure and maintain insurance prior to commencement of construction;
6) a provision allowing Lessee to use gravel resources for construction of the access road; and
7) a provision that the lease may not be assigned or renewed without written approval of the Borough Manager, which approval shall not be unreasonably withheld.
Across Turnagain Arm, the mega project Chuitna coal mine is slowly inching toward possible development in the midst of one of the richest salmon habitats in the world. This week, on Moore Up North, Shannyn Moore devoted the program to issues regarding this potential development. Here's Part One:
You can see the entire program at Shannyn's blog, Just a Girl from Homer.
III. Erin and Hig, whose trek from Seattle to Unimak Island in the Aleutians was - in part - to raise awareness of the dangers of Chuitna mining, are traveling through coal country in the upper Rockies:
We’re in Montana now. On this long driving book tour, we haven’t had a lot of time for tourism. We drive, we give talks, we socialize with new and old friends across the country… And we see most things as a blur beyond the highway window.
But we were excited to have a few unscheduled days between our last talk in Colorado, and our first talk in Montana. Because we would be going through Wyoming. And Wyoming has coal.
In Alaska, we’ve been interested in coal without ever having seen where it is dragged from the ground. In Homer, we’ve wandered past ocean bluffs shedding lumps of coal. On the Alaska Peninsula, we’ve seen coal seams in riverbanks. And at the proposed Chuitna Mine site, we’ve skied through snowy swaths of forest and meadows where coal development is planned. We’ve even seen piles of coal, conveyors of coal, and ships loading coal at the port in Seward. But I don’t think I’d ever seen a coal mine.
You can read more, and look at their photos, at Erin and Hig's site, Ground Truth Trekking Blog.
image - the composition of coal