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Sago Mine Disaster Indicts Deregulation
Published on Friday, January 6, 2006 by the Progressive
Sago Mine Disaster Indicts Deregulation
by Matthew Rothschild

I'm sickened, as I’m sure you are, by the tragic death of those twelve coal miners in West Virginia.

And I can only imagine how it felt to be on that sadistic rollercoaster of emotions that the company put people on as a result of bad PR.

But this mine disaster is an indictment not just of a company but of a philosophy—the philosophy of deregulation, which Bush and the Republican Party and libertarians have been promoting at every turn.

This is what happens when you deregulate industry.

People die.

This is what happens when you let companies act as their own watchdogs.

People die.

This is what happens when the penalties for safety violations amount to the gentlest of pats on the wrist.

People die.

“The Mine Safety and Health administration issued a total of 208 citations for alleged violations at the site last year,” reports The Boston Globe.

“Most of the citations were issued before the current owners took over the mine in November, but International Coal Group Inc. was cited by the federal government three times in five days in December for allowing flammable coal dust to collect in a work area.”

Still, the Bush Administration didn’t shut the mine down.

And for all of the citations last year, the mine owners had to pay a total of only $24,000, the Globe reports. “Scores of penalties” were issued “for the minimum of $60.”

Rather than regulate the coal companies, the Bush Administration has entered into what it calls “partnerships” with the coal companies, the United Mine Workers told the Globe, and the Administration “is shying away from imposing heavy fines and sanctions.”

The Bush Administration also gave high-ranking jobs in the Mine Safety and Health Administration to former industry officials, and it yanked proposals for tightening regulations.

“Among the regulatory proposals no longer being worked on, some of them spanning years and administrations, are those addressing safety issues with self-rescue respiratory devices for miners” as well as “the shortage of mine rescue teams,” The Washington Post reported on November 16, 2004, in an article entitled “Mining Safety Rules Got the Shaft, Workers Union Says.”

It should not take a disaster like the one in West Virginia to see the fatal effects of the policy and philosophy of deregulation.

More people will be getting the shaft if we don’t reverse this policy and renounce this philosophy.

Matthew Rothschild has been with The Progressive since 1983.

© 2006 The Progressive


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