From The Goat Rope–Rick Wilson’s Blog

Yesterday, Feb. 26, marked the 40th anniversary of the Buffalo Creek disaster, when a coal waste dam owned by Pittston Coal broke collapsed, killing 125 people, wiping out several communities and leaving thousands homeless.

In other coal news, it looks like the mine safety bill under consideration in the WV legislature may be back on track despite efforts by coal industry lobbyists. You can find two different takes on it at the Gazette website. Statehouse columnist Phil Kabler sees it as a sign of the weakening power of the coal lobby as other major power players emerge:

How times have changed: After being moved to the inactive House calendar last week over objections from coal industry lobbyists, Gov.Earl Ray Tomblin’s coal safety legislation (HB4351) is back on the active calendar and will be on amendment stage on the House floor this morning, after all sides worked out an agreement Friday.

Actually, not so much a compromise as the Tomblin administration and House leadership, under Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, drawing a line in the sand telling the industry no further concessions would be granted.

It wasn’t too long ago that the process was the other way around. However, with competition from gambling interests, big Pharma and, increasingly, the gas/petrochemical industry, coal is not the predominant lobbying force at the Legislature anymore.

Meanwhile, Ken Ward at Coal Tattoo questions whether the legislation does all it could to protect miners.
I have mixed feelings. Far be it from me to question Ward’s analysis of its weaknesses. But I am glad that mine safety is on the agenda at all and that  the original bill as proposed by the governor was improved by pressure from the House. And I think it is a significant victory that everyone didn’t just, pardon the expression, cave in to the coal industry as has all too frequently happened in the past.
It’s still not a done deal until it passes the full House and completes the process on the Senate side, so there is plenty of room for more surprises.

— Posted By El Cabrero to The Goat Ropeat 2/27/2012 07:50:00 AM


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About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (, and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation ( I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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