At Thursday’s public hearing on the “Coal Jobs and Safety Act of 2015”, I was proud to see environmentalists and the UMWA stand together in opposition to an assault on safety, our shared environment and, in fact, hope for the future. It’s a shame that it’s necessary to even have such a hearing, a shame that the coal industry even wants these changes and a shame that the industry wants people and our waters to pay the price for their actions. Environmentalists and coal miners shouldn’t be adversaries, but it is in other people’s interests to make it seem that way.
All I know about coal mining comes from reading the UBB and Aracoma reports, written after the tragedies at those mines. That, and some stories told by my husband Ray. He never was a miner, nor his father, but his great grandfather O.A. Veazey was West Virginia’s first director of mines, back in the mid 1880s. O.A. saw the toll mining took on miners and made recommendations to improve the situation. I won’t say coal operators are slow learners, but not all of his ideas were implemented.
It appears that the coal industry also hasn’t learned a lesson we learned as small children: clean up your own messes. Why else destroy streams? Why is rock dusting a big deal? Why would they leave moonscapes in their wake?
Then there are the ethical issues. Why would the coal industry not treat their employees and the surrounding communities the way they would want to be treated? It’s just wrong.