Mine Safety: Weakening regulations puts lives at risk

At the end of a year in which a disturbing trend toward weakening mine safety regulations has popped up in Washington, D.C., Mountain State residents got some sobering news. In 2017 there were 15 deaths at U.S. coal mines, up from nine in 2016. More than half of those deaths occurred in West Virginia.

Mine Safety and Health Administration data shows eight died in West Virginia, two in Kentucky, and one each in Pennsylvania, Alabama, Wyoming, Montana and Colorado. In other words, almost all the deaths occurred in precisely the states that had been sending folks to Washington in the hope of putting a stop to the war on coal.

Battling against the illegal regulatory assault that was designed to put an end to the domestic coal industry is one thing. Putting at risk the lives of those who work in already-dangerous conditions to bring us the affordable electricity we need is quite another.

From MSHA putting its toes in the water about easing mine safety and health standards for companies — particularly as they pertain to black lung; to U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., voting in favor of cutting MSHA’s budget, and then supporting a measure to eliminate the requirement for companies to report mine safety violations and other information, the momentum is unsettling.

Coal mine workers should feel confident that, as much as possible, there are measures in place to keep them relatively safe as they go about their jobs. They should not be afraid — especially now, as it seems more may be going back to work — that lax regulations or failure to properly train them has put their health and their very lives in danger.