I’ve long preached that the Friends of Coal is a coal industry organization created by associations of coal companies such as the West Virginia Coal Association and the Kentucky Coal Association. These organizations are not about helping miners, they are about helping themselves to higher profits with little regard to the health and safety of coal miners and their families. Case in point…
This from from the West Virginia Coal Association website:
West Virginia Coal Association and Friends of Coal Thank the State Senate for Passing the Coal Jobs and Safety Act of 2015
Within the Coal Jobs and Safety Act of 2015….
§22A-2A-301. The West Virginia Diesel Equipment Commission abolished; transfer of duties and responsibilities; transfer of equipment and records; continuation of prior approvals of diesel equipment for use in underground coal mines; continuation of rules of the commission.
(a) The West Virginia Diesel Equipment Commission is hereby abolished. All duties and responsibilities heretofore imposed upon the commission are hereby imposed upon the Director of the Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training.
This means that the director of the Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training will have all the say in what is allowed for diesel equipment underground. It removes the democratic process allowing a COMMISSION OF PEOPLE to weigh in on whether or not some actions and regulations are harmful to the health of miners with regard to the use of diesel powered equipment in underground mines. If this bill passes as is, one person…the director of the Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training will have all the power of regulating diesel equipment. Who hires the director? Who is their superior, i.e. who do they answer to? Is it by any chance the same politicians who receive their campaign funds from coal company associations?
Okay so why is this bad for coal miners?
From the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health’s website entitled “Mining Topic – Diesel Exhaust”
What is the health and safety problem?
Exposure to elevated diesel exhaust concentrations has been linked to negative health effects such as eye and nose irritation, headaches, nausea, and asthma. Diesel particulate matter (DPM) has been classified as a possible carcinogen by both the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Diesel engines are a major contributor to elevated concentrations of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, and hydrocarbons in underground coal and metal/nonmetal mines.
What is the extent of the problem?
Currently, underground miners can be exposed to more than 100 times the typical environmental concentration of diesel exhaust and more than 10 times what might be found in other workplaces. As mines add more and more pieces of diesel equipment the potential overexposure becomes an even greater risk.
A few years ago I wrote about this very subject in my article “A Coal Miner’s Health: Short Term Gains and Long Term Loss”
While the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration and various state mining agencies have put various laws regarding diesel equipment in place, miners are left to wonder if it will be enough. “NIOSH cannot definitely determine that current diesel regulations will result in the elimination of all diesel health concerns,” stated Ed Blosser, Public Affairs Officer for NIOSH. “The reason for this uncertainty is that there is still incomplete information concerning the level of exposure to diesel emissions that may cause health effects.”
So let’s assemble the pieces here. Diesel exhaust may cause lung cancer over long periods of time. There’s not been enough research to establish that diesel exhaust will NOT cause cancer. Coal companies prefer diesel equipment because it is cheaper than hiring people to put down track and is cheaper than buying rail and trolly wire. Two diesel mechanics can replace several electricians and underground track crews. The fewer diesel regulations there are, the more companies can use cheaper-to-maintain diesel equipment. The more they can use cheaper-to-maintain diesel equipment, the more profit they can make. The more profit they make, the more they will pay coal miners and create jobs…oh wait, I’m sorry, I meant to say, the more they will give to their stockholders and company executives and the more money they’ll have to create advertising campaigns to convince us all that mining is safe. And we might as well throw in more money to fund lawyers, lobbyists, and political campaigns that will continue eroding miner’s safety to achieve higher profits.
No easy way to say this people, if you are in the business of supporting Friends of Coal or other coal company organizations, you are ensuring that the next generation of coal miners will work in unsafe conditions. Is it really worth it? Really?