Ken Ward Jr. at the Charleston Gazette continues to do the best reporting on the disaster at the Massey Energy coal mine in West Virginia. In a story posted late Tuesday afternoon, Ward notes that four years ago, after a series of similar disasters, Congress passed laws aimed at making mines safer. “But this week in Raleigh County, none of those reforms was enough. At least 25 miners died in a massive explosion at a Massey Energy mine. Officials fear the death toll will rise higher, with four more miners still missing inside the Upper Big Branch Mine near Montcoal,” Ward wrote. “How could this happen?”
“It tells me one of two things,” said longtime mine safety crusader Davitt McAteer, who ran the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration during the Clinton years. “One, the law isn’t being enforced or, two, the law didn’t go far enough.”
Ward finds both could be true. For example, only one in ten underground coal mines have installed the tracking systems the law required to keep tabs on miners. As a result, rescuers aren’t sure where the missing miners might be. Kentucky mine safety expert Tony Oppegard says it is clear now that the laws from four years ago didn’t go far enough.