Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Coal Miners' Slaughter - Some Thoughts on Coal

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.

The comment period is still open.

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


lexcade said...

OMG, those asshats (as laura would say) from westboro PROTESTED THE MINERS?! i'm literally nauseous right now.

there's just...there's nothing good that i can say. i can't even keep it PG right now. my dad works in the coal industry and i've heard so many stories about this...there's that whole 'brotherhood of miners' thing, and...ugh.

i'm sorry. i think that these are the only people i despise more than palin. and to know that they have the audacity to protest at the funerals of these miners, whose deaths weren't caused by "God smiting the mine," but by a pompous, arrogant asshole who thought that donating to the tea party was more important than ensuring the safety of his employees. picket THAT GUY.

these people spew more hatred than palin could ever hope to.

if they think they're going to heaven for this, then they're going to be sorely disappointed when they get to heaven and St. Peter tells them the infinite number of reasons they're not getting in, and then they have to go to hell anyway... sorry. rambling. but you get my point, right?

does anyone ever protest them?

Anonymous said...

I have a few questions. What is it that you want to progress to? What is it exactly that you think we should become? I know that our system/Country is not perfect, but there is little out there that can even come close to our way of life here in the America.

On the mining company supporting the Teaparty movement, and the Westboro church being an absolutely vial organization I agree. On the other hand it is not fair to judge a movement based on the actions of the few. Doing this is stereotyping, and disgusting. It would be no different than someone getting on your blog and saying that you were a progressive there for you, and all who agree with you are radical socialist/communists that love Chaves and want the total destruction of our current system/country. Where as I believe that the majority of people who read your blog, such as myself, can see the good and the not so good in your opinions. I believe that the American people for the most part do want the same thing, the differences lie in the way to achieve it. But their will always be the few extremists in any walk of life.

We all need to keep an open mind and judge others by there actions and not the actions of those around them.

Thank you for caring.

KaJo said...

Anonymous @ April 12, 2010 4:11 AM, I think lexcade and Phil were rather specific as to who they were condemning, without "stereotyping" as you put it.

Leave that to the Teapartiers, who seem to think that all progressives or anyone leaning even a fraction to the left of center is a "radical leftist".

In case you hadn't noticed, over the past 40 years or so, the country as a whole has been migrating philosopically to the right, so that now what used to be a centrist philosophy is called "radical left" and anyone who's not a radical rightist is being condemned as a RINO.

THAT'S who's been doing the judgments, and yes, it IS disgusting.

Will you surface again to protest when the far-right Republicans in Congress insist that the next Supreme Court nominee be more of a conservative than Stevens was, who was a centrist conservative himself back when he was nominated?

We'll never know, because you're anonymous.

Philip Munger said...

One one side of the Tea Party story, we have its initially highly secret subornation by rich backers, who hired operatives to get it ramped up; on the other side, all along there have been the ties to the "Pstriot" movement, so well documented by David Neiwert and others, as being a seditious set of groups; in the middle, there are thousands of under-informed Americans, hoping for change in bloated government; along with an unhealthy mix of racists who never bothered to complain about the growth of big government under a white republican but now see all sorts of problems.

freeper said...

If we just boil it back down to coal, and the issue of whether coal is feasible, necessary or desirable, the answer is no on all counts.

I don't care what political ideology you want to approach the issue from, the reality is that coal is unacceptable and should be opposed in any form it might be promoted.

Shutting down coal mining, be it Chuitna or mountain top mining, or any other form of coal extraction should be the focus.

Do try to maintain focus.

Trying to tie this issue to any and every nutjob ideologue or dispensable and dismissible pseudo-movement only detracts from what the focus should be.

No Chuitna, and ultimately, no more dependence on coal.
Diversions into the idiocy of factional minorities and extremisms doesn't and won't advance the focus.

lexcade said...


that's all well and good, and should be an eventual outcome. but we can't just go and shut down all the mines right now.

i come from a small coal-mining town in Appalachia and from at least 3 generations of coal miners, so yes, i'm upset by the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church. like police officers and firefighters, coal miners also have a 'brotherhood', so when there's a loss, we all feel it whether we knew anyone or not.

it's safe to say that coal BUILT my town, and that eliminating coal outright without supplying any other options would bankrupt it. that nearly happened in the 70s, and the town STILL hasn't recovered. if we're going to do anything about coal, we need to supply options for these small towns where coal is still the #1 industry, otherwise, they'll quickly fade into nothing. once a viable option comes into play, i'll happily watch coal become a thing of the past. until then, closing these mines is a really, really, really bad idea.

lexcade said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...


This is Anonymous. It's not that I do not agree with the point behind the blog. I just don't like it when people judge a group based on a few individuals actions. Now by no means am I saying that this is only happening against the Teapary. This is something that many are guilty of. I just think that it drastically reduces the impact of the article/blog (what have you) when you start playing this "he said she said" type game. It’s like when you are in a debate with someone and they start yelling obscenities and making obscene gestures, you immediately tune them out. I was just trying to point out that the author could have gotten his point across without even mentioning the teapartiers. I just hate the unneeded low blows and pointless comments used just to attract attention to something. Once again, many are guilty of this. Whatever happened to good old debate such as we are having. Not once have we used a sweeping statement to describe/attack one another to prove a point or try and get the upper hand.

Thank you for caring.

Chris said...

Speaking of Westboro... Found this recently:

What do you say to yourself in the mirror the day after the KKK tells you that you're in loony tunes land? I mean, really. Wow. That's rock bottom right there.


Evil Coal Company donates more money to Tea Party PAC than to a specific safety improvement = Tea Party is evil too?

All pols take money, all PACs take money, and so long as government has the power to make or break an industry, companies will fight to control that power. They'd be stupid not to, and they'd be failing their shareholders. Folks on the left and the right take money from all sorts of sources, and it is just the way business is done right now. I seem to recall hearing about Dems that took money from bailed out TARP companies recently, for example. Heck, in the last few years those evil insurance companies that we heard so much about recently quietly shifted major donations to the Dems too.

Don't hate the player, hate the game. The bigger issue, in my mind, is how to drain some of the money sloshing around out of the system out of the swamp. This isn't a left/right issue; its a problem that plagues our entire political system.


freeper said...


let me see if I understand what you're saying.

If our actions are well recognized to be detrimental to our health, and known to be one of the keystone measures that threaten our very well being as a viable planet, we shouldn't stop acting that way until you find another way to make money off of killing the planet ?

It appears your indoctrination was a complete success, those who wish to enslave you to the theory of profits trumping basic necessities have done their job very well, judging by your willingness to continue to risk and sacrifice the very long term existence of the planet in order to maintain or guarantee your short term ease and comfort.

Suffice it to say, future generations won't be lining up to pay tribute to that mindset.

Your assumption that coal can't be eliminated, that coal mining can't be replaced is not any kind of hard and fast reality.

The reality is that alternative economic models do exist, other lifestyles and means of supporting those miners is not an impossibility.

History will document untold examples of workers, skilled and unskilled, who have adapted to change without catastrophic apocalyptic ruination.

To say we simply can't do what we need to do is utter folly.

We not only can, we must. And the sooner the better, .....for all involved.

lexcade said...

wow. that is NOT what i said AT ALL. read, freeper! read!

obviously, my mindset is different because i was raised by a family that grew up in the coal business in a town that only survives because of the coal business. i'm not saying that i like the business. i loathe it. however, my point is that if we were to suddenly eliminate the business, my town would crumble. my dad is one of the lucky ones b/c he is also trained as an electrician. should Obama step up tomorrow and say that coal mining is illegal, my family would be okay. however, i can't begin to tell you how many families would suffer and how that town of 2000 people would fall apart.

you see, at least in my town, coal mining IS the big business. there are a LOT of people who work in those mines who don't know how to do anything else. some of them can't even read. coal is all they have to put food on their families' plates. my point was that if there was a viable energy source to replace coal--i.e. wind, solar, hydro-- and training in these different sources was provided for the miners, then i'd be just fine with coal going away. however, with it just ripped away, which is what i took as your suggestion, my town would probably not recover from a second coal drop. like i said before, the one in the 70s nearly ruined the town. it's come back slowly, but in a concurrence with coal coming back as well. as of right now, the two are linked.

i am a fan of the environment. i am a fan of clean water, clean air. i'm a fan of people not having to deal with black lung or imminent death just to make a living. i think it's wrong and unfair. i was able to grow up, have clothes on my back, food on my table, and go to college because my dad put in such long, arduous hours. i blame coal for taking my father away from me when i was a child. i didn't have him at school plays, choir concerts, band concerts, academic team meets, because he was at work. your assumption that i'm indoctrinated into this business couldn't be more off the mark. the problem is that, while it's dangerous, the money is GREAT. we need something comparable, not necessary land-raping, but comparable to make the transition from coal to cleaner energy sources.

@ chris. i never said the tea party was evil. i'm not going to let my politics detract from the matter at hand. my point was that the man could donate that much to a political cause (i.e. write it off on his taxes) but he couldn't spend HALF THAT to ensure the safety of his miners. i'd be just as enraged if he had donated it to obama or to any other organization. the point is that he had all these violations against him and he KNEW that he had all of these violations against him, but he still thought it would be more useful to donate to an organization than to protect his employees and their families.

Anonymous said...

Lexcade, these ASSHATS are paid trolls by palin, paid to divert attention...its doesn't matter that this post is not about the crazy lady this is something she supports the rape of the planet!
Say what you will Lexcade and ignore them. Reasonable people know exactly what you said!