February 6, 2009 The Pump Handle 2Comment

We often link to Ken Ward Jr.’s excellent coverage of mining issues in the Charleston Gazette. He does a fantastic job exploring the many ways that decisions by mining companies and government bureaucrats affect the lives of mineworkers, their families, and mining communities. Celeste summed up our admiration for him a couple of months ago, writing:

Ken Ward amazes me with his tenacious attention to worker safety, his watchdog instincts, and his exceptional commitment to follow-up.

And now, we get even more of this great coal-mining coverage from Ken Ward’s new blog, Coal Tattoo. The blog’s purpose, as he explains in his introductory post, isn’t just to offer more of his reporting (though that’s certainly welcome), but to help foster a discussion about the future of coal:

Coal helped to build industrial America, powered our nation through two world wars, and is still an important part of the economy in coalfield communities from West Virginia to Wyoming. And, as industry supporters and their billboards remind us, coal keeps the lights on in about half of all American households.

But the downside of coal becomes more and more apparent each day.

Over the last three years, a string of mine disasters — Sago, Aracoma, Darby and Crandall Canyon — reminded us of the very real human cost to miners and their families. Just before this past Christmas, the collapse of the TVA coal-ash dam in Tennessee showed us again that there’s really nothing that clean about coal.

Earlier this week, the New York Times’ blog, Green Inc, observed that it’s been a tough week for coal. Among other things, the Times cited the Air Force’s cancellation of plans for a coal-to-liquids fuel plant in Montana, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s call for a moratorium on new coal plants, and a $140 million Clean Air Act settlement by utilities in Kentucky. (Closer to home, the Times also noted yesterday’s big protests against Massey Energy, and a new lawsuit over contaminated drinking water supplies).

But with a few exceptions, most of the blogging out there about coal comes from either the industry’s most vocal opponents (see Coal is Dirty or the Front Porch) or from coal industry boosters such as Behind the Plug.

So maybe it’s time for one of the few daily newspapers in the country that still covers the coal industry on a regular basis to get into the game, to take the leap into the blogosphere.

We’ll still be doing plenty of coal stories in the daily print edition, as well as longer projects on the industry in the Sunday edition. But the blog format will allow the Gazette to get information out more quickly, and to help foster the growing national — really, international — discussion about the future of coal.

The blog takes its name from the Billy Ed Wheeler song “Coal Tattoo,” and the masthead includes a photo of Bud Morris, a Kentucky mineworker who bled to death after an overloaded coal severed his leg. Ken Ward’s commitment to telling the human stories behind coal is evident as soon as you click through to his blog.

So, go check out this welcome addition to the blogosphere, and join the Coal Tattoo conversation.

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