Chris Stirewalt of the Examiner has some important things to say about how labor unions and their allies are already trying to exploit the West Virginia mine disaster, aided by credulous reporters who are only too ready to broadcast exaggerated claims:
The coverage of the disaster hasn’t focused on the handful of actual warning signs but instead on the volume of complaints from federal regulators. TV newscasters and reporters repeat over and over again that the mine had received “thousands” of citations or paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. Diane Sawyer has been the most over the top, but the theme of most of the reporting has been that this is the Toyota Prius of coal moans – a runaway safety problem overlooked by federal investigators. It all forgets that all mines are being constantly written up and fined. It’s a hovering regulatory presence that works more like a health code inspection at restaurants than consumer product safety. Small problems get written up and corrected. Any big problems or an accumulation of un-remedied small ones get you shut down.
Believe me when I say that the Obama administration would hardly have punished a mine regulator who wanted to shut down a Massey mine. The company is the biggest producer in Central Appalachia. Like most of the industry it runs non-union, but the region where Massey mines is the last stand of the United Mine Workers of America – there’s no way to convince coal miners in Wyoming to pay dues and join up, but bitter hatreds left over from mine wars make Appalachia more fertile ground for union organization.
Chris Horner said something similar in his moving tribute to mining folk over at Planet Gore yesterday.