Wednesday, January 04, 2006


It's cold and it's dark deep down in the mine. And for 12 of 13 miners in West Virginia, it'll stay dark.

Why anyone dies is a complicated topic, and one that has troubled people since the time of Job. But mines are heavily regulated, and safety regulations and enforcement can save lives. Scott Shields points out that mining regulations and enforcement of the rules have been cut back.

Just as you can't blame Katrina specifically on global warming, you can't blame a particular mining death on these cutbacks. Accidents happen even when the rules are stringently followed.

But these changes do cost lives. At this point, the issue isn't whether they took those 12 brave souls, but how to save the next batch of miners. Giving control of the regulatory process to incompetents and industry shills puts people in greater danger. It did in No Man's Land and it did in West Virginia.

The other controversy is why people first said that the 12 were alive, but 2 hours later said they weren't. I don't know, and it's easy to spin conspiracy stories. All I'll say is that it sounds like a lot went wrong, and the fact that 12 men died seems a lot worse than the fact that the message reporting that got garbled. To the families of those people, those two hours of joy ended with grief that much greater, and my heart goes out to them for their loss and for the additional suffering they endured last night.

As always, give generously to the charity of your choice.