Coal Mine Tragedy in West Virginia

By now many of you have heard the horrible news coming out of West Virginia regarding the coal mine explosion that has killed at least 25 people. While coal mines are a key target of environmental groups, I can say that without exception the chatter and emails circulating around this tragic event has only been of hope and support for the miners and their families.  I share the same sentiment, but also a bit of anger because in my eyes this was an avoidable tragedy that occurred because dirty energy companies are so focused on making profits at the expense of everything else (workers, our climate, our economy, job creation, wildlife, nature, etc) that they use their money and power to cover the real harm of their industry on all of us.

This is a mine that is operated by Massey Energy, who if you remember has been the subject of a lot of controversy over the years. This is a company who has repeatedly misled the public and elected officials to the safety of their mines and impact of their practices. Don’t believe me? How’s this: Massey Energy had to pay the Environmental Protection Agency $20 million, the largest civil penalty in US history, for OVER 4,500 VIOLATIONS of the Clean Water Act between 2000 and 2006. If this is the respect they give Federal law, you can only imagine the shortcuts they take when it comes to worker safety…

To give you an idea of how much they really care about their people check this out.  A full day after the recent mining disaster their website still says nothing of the tragedy or offering support for the families of the victims, but instead prominently features an article touting that “2009 WAS ANOTHER RECORD SETTING YEAR FOR SAFETY”. (see the screenshot below taken at 11am on April 6, 2010).  I don’t think 2010 will be another “record-setting” year sadly.

You might say that this is just one of the risks that goes along with mining. You’re not wrong. The only problem is it doesn’t have to be this way. There are plenty of cleaner, safer options for creating our energy. We are being lapped by China and European nations who are creating jobs and developing technology to create this next generation of clean and safe energy while we drag our feet.  The worst part is, we could be leading in this new sector, creating American jobs and selling our products overseas. Instead we are going to find ourselves buying products from other nations, supporting their job and economic growth and playing catch up in the energy market while they speed ahead of us. There are plenty of examples too. First Solar from Tempe, AZ and eSolar from Pasadena, CA have both sold large pieces of their business to China, and its likely that these companies will now be building and developing these products in China instead of the US.

It all comes down to this though…what type of world are we creating for ourselves and our children? In the last week there has been a huge mining disaster in China that left hundreds dead and injured, there was an oil spill at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia which is polluting one of the most beautiful and essential oceanic ecosystems (to add insult to injury the ship was that is leaking oil was transporting coal!) and now we have the tragedy here in West Virginia. When will we realize that the damage we are doing to our planet and ourselves must stop? What needs to happen to convince American’s that its time we make creating the new clean energy economy a priority? What would it take for it to be a priority of yours???

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