Monday :: Jan 2, 2006

Coal Mine Of Today's Accident Cited 208 Times By Bush Labor Department - In One Year - But Never Closed

by Steve

There is no doubt that coal mining is dangerous work. There is also no doubt that the coal mining industry has been one of the big beneficiaries of the Bush Administration’s lax attitude towards environmental and safety requirements, and has rewarded Bush and Cheney with large campaign contributions.

Today, 13 coal miners are trapped in a West Virginia mine as a result of a mine explosion, and face death despite desperate rescue efforts tonight.

And yes, the coal mine in question has been given a wink and nod over repeated safety violations by Elaine Chao’s Department of Labor, for the type of violations that lead to mine explosions like today’s. Want proof?

A coal mine where 13 miners were trapped after an explosion Monday was cited 208 times for alleged safety violations in 2005, up from just 68 citations the year before.

That’s 208 citations, one year. And yet Elaine Chao’s Labor Department still didn’t close this mine, and now 13 miners and their families may pay the ultimate price for this negligence.

So who exactly is International Coal Group? Well, ICG is the creation of Wilbur L. Ross, a New York financier and turnaround investor who specializes in swooping in to buy up distressed or bankrupt assets, without assuming the legacy costs of the previous company’s health care and pension liabilities, or union contracts for that matter where possible. Ross then does what all good members of Bush’s base do: slash costs, make little or no investment in things like safety, and then sell the asset at a huge profit when the market for that good or service improves. He's done this in steel, auto parts, textiles, and now coal. And if it sounds like what Carlyle Group does, you are correct.

In fact, since Mr. Ross and ICG bought the Sago mine from the bankrupt Anker Corporation in 2002 and reopened it in 2004, the mine has racked up four times the safety violations in 2004 and 2005 than it did in the last four years of Anker's ownership. And ICG's current president and CEO Bennett Hatfield has an interesting track record himself. He was a defendant in a lawsuit while he was the COO at Massey Energy, a lawsuit where it was alleged that he among others engaged in insider trading, illegal employment practices, and flagrant lawlessness regarding environmental regulations. And yet this is the guy who Wilbur Ross brought in to run his new toy International Coal Group. At least Mr. Hatfield was successful in steering corporate campaign contributions from another former firm Arch Coal to the GOP.

This tragedy-in-the-making may undo the gloss that Ross has acquired as a "savior" who has saved union jobs in the past with a gun to the heads of the workers, who are only too happy to have a job rather than lose it.

Steve :: 9:52 PM :: Comments (15) :: TrackBack (1) :: Digg It!