February 21, 2008 The Pump Handle 0Comment

There are a number of memorable quotes in the Center for Study of Responsive Law’s newly released report “Undermining Safety: A Report on Coal Mine Safety.”   In one section, report author Christopher W. Shaw discusses the mining industry’s lobbying for “targeted inspections” (a la the OSHA model) instead of the current requirement for mandatory quarterly inspections.  The AFL-CIO’s secretary-treasurer Richard L. Trumka—a former coal miner—derided the notion of making MSHA more like OSHA:

“OSHA reminds me of an 18-year old Mexican Chihauhua dog that’s lost its teeth and hides behind the furniture going ‘bark, bark, bark’.” 

Ouch! for the chihauhua lovers out there, but Trumka doesn’t mince any words about his views on OSHA’s relevance.

In another section, Shaw describes the mining industry’s reluctance to invest voluntarily in more advanced safety equipment, that is, equipment not designed for extracting coal.  He quotes Bill Caylor, president of the Kentucky  Coal Association, after state inspectors found 119 defective self-contained self-rescuers in active underground coal mines.  Caylor said:

“I don’t think it indicates a problem.”

With a reality check, Ellen Smith, editor of Mine Safety and Health News, noted:

“It’s not a problem unless you’re one of the 119 miners [carrying] a defective device.”

My final favorite quip in Shaw’s report dates back to 1973 from Arnold Miller, a former president of the United Mine Workers of America:

“I was raised in the coalfields and I’ve been a coal miner all my life.  But I’ve never heard a coal operator claim he was making any money.  To hear the operators tell it, the coal industry is the oldest, non-profit organization in the nation.”


In the year ending 2007, the following major U.S. coal companies reported the following net income:

  • Peabody $421.3 million (NYSE: BTW)
  • CONSOL’s net income in 2007 was $267.8 million (NYSE: CNX)
  • Alliance Resource $170.4 million (NYSE: ARLP)
  • Massey Energy $94.1 million  (NYSE: MEE)
  • Arch Coal $81.3 million (NYSE: ACI)
  • Murray Energy (not a public firm, no public access to net income or loss)
  • Foundation Coal: $32.6 million (NYSE: FCL)

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