(AP Photo/Courtesy of Robert Murray)
Mine owners like Bob "Mitch McConnell calls me one of the five finest men in America, and last I checked, he was sleeping with your boss" Murray are going to have a much less regulatory worries if the Bush Administration has its way
The Bush administration wants to quit requiring coal operators to prove that their surface mining will not damage streams, fish and wildlife.
Under proposed new regulations that it will put out Friday for public comment, strip mine operators would have to show only that they intend "to prevent, to the extent possible using the best technology currently available," such damage.
Interior officials have said that complying with that buffer zone requirement is impossible in "mountaintop removal mining," which involves shearing off the tops of ridges to expose a coal seam. Dirt and rock are pushed below, often into stream beds, a practice known as valley fill.
Meanwhile, Bob Murray has really been great to those families of the trapped miners
In an unsigned, written statement released Wednesday, the family of one trapped miner lashed out at Murray. The family members asked the Deseret Morning News not to use their names out of fear of recrimination.
"He very aggressively told the families to give up," the statement said.
After the Aug. 16 deadly collapse that killed three rescuers and injured six others, the statement said, Murray placed the blame on the families.
"He said to us that 'We are a team, all of us, to include you family members. We have made all of these decisions together. But last week I, no, let me correct that, we killed three people,"' the statement said.
But wait there is more
"I do think the way the families have been treated is unconscionable," [Gov. Jon] Huntsman [Jr.] said.
"I didn't desert anybody," Murray told The Associated Press. "I've been living on this mountain every day, living in a little trailer."
He said he rushed into the mine in his street clothes and began digging out the men, buried under 5 feet of coal, with his bare hands. "I never hesitated to go in there. I was the first man in and the last man out," he said.
Just like Rudy! was a 9/11 rescue worker because he spent a whole 28 hours at Ground Zero giving tours to big shots (Giuliani spent more time at Yankees games that fall). The brave Republican authoritarians.
At the beginning, Murray said that "not leave this mine until those men are rescued, dead or alive." but now he says the mine is going to be sealed and closed. "I can tell you right now, we are not going back into that mountain," he added. Which is it?
And why were they mining in this depleted mountain anyway?
Prices for coal are up, and more revenue came out of Utah's coal mines this year than any time in the past decade, according to the state's "Annual Review and Forecast of Utah Coal: Production." Production grew, along with the number of jobs in the mines, the report said.And speaking of money
New safety precautions may thin the line between the price Utah's hard-to-mine coal can fetch and what operators spend to mine it, the report also suggests.
At a funeral Tuesday for one of the rescue workers who died, a friend of one of the trapped miners confronted Murray and accused him of skimping on the rescue efforts. He then handed Murray a dollar bill.Murray isn't the only person to come out of this catastrophe with a PR mess on his hands
"This is just to help you out so you don't kill him," the man said.
Murray's head snapped back as if slapped. When the man wouldn't take back the bill, Murray threw the money on the ground. "I'll tell you what, son, you need to find out about the Lord," Murray said.
"Richard Stickler is a very competent MSHA official," Sen. Orrin Hatch said. "He has done his best to see that the job is done right. He cares greatly about these miners."The only one looking good hear is the Governor.
President Bush tapped the then-retired Stickler last year to head MSHA, but several senators balked, including [Ted] Kennedy [D-MA]- who charged that when Stickler was a senior manager at a mine in West Virginia, the injury rate was three times the national average.
Kennedy also argued that when Stickler ran the Marianna mine, the injury rate climbed "dramatically" and that mines he managed before heading the Pennsylvania Bureau of Deep Mining had a total of 3,000 safety violations.
MSHA and Stickler's supporters dispute those statistics. Stickler also said current laws were "adequate" when asked about changing regulations with the MINER Act, a sweeping overhaul of mine laws that passed overwhelmingly last year.
The Senate twice sent Stickler's nomination back to Bush.
But when Congress left town last October for a break, Bush used his power to temporarily put Stickler in charge of MSHA. His recess appointment ends this year.
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. asked the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration today to immediately inspect two additional mines owned by Murray Energy Corp. in Carbon County...
Huntsman also is preparing to appoint an independent investigation committee to make recommendations to ensure safety in Utah mines, his office said.
"These additional inspections are only the beginning of a larger investigation that needs to be conducted in Utah's deep mines to secure safety for our miners," Huntsman said in the release. "We must do all we can, at every level, to be prepared for a catastrophe like this one. This is the least we can do to ensure that the lives lost have not been in vain."
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. today named his former political opponent, Scott Matheson Jr., to lead the newly formed Utah Mine Safety Commission that will consider what the state's role should be in protecting coal miners.
Utah ceded mine safety to the federal government in 1977, a decision that the governor said may be reconsidered.
During the taping of the governor's monthly news conference broadcast on KUED Channel 7, Huntsman said he's "not sure anyone cares what (Murray) has to say right now."
The more you read about all this, the worse you feel, but you have to keep reading...and praying.
(Thanks to Katie Halper for all the great Murray quotes)