Lawmakers in West Virginia are considering legislation that would eliminate virtually all enforcement of coal-mining safety regulations.
I shouldn't laugh, but one measure included in the industry-backed bill, Senate Bill 582, made me audibly guffaw.
From the Charleston Gazette-Mail:
State safety inspectors wouldn’t inspect West Virginia’s coal mines anymore. They would conduct “compliance visits and education.”
Violations of health and safety standards wouldn’t produce state citations and fines, either. Mine operators would receive “compliance assistance visit notices.”
And West Virginia regulators wouldn’t have authority to write safety and health regulations. Instead, they could only “adopt policies ... [for] improving compliance assistance” in the state’s mines.
None of that is funny, but this part got me.
Various lobbyists and advocates, even many lawmakers, are still trying to sort out and understand its many provisions, which range from language rewriting the state’s program for holding mine operators responsible for cleaning up abandoned strip mines and properly classifying streams that are trout waters to consolidating existing state mine safety boards into one panel and creating a new mandate for state-funded mine rescue teams.
Of course, the state may need dedicated rescue teams if safety inspectors aren't allowed to inspect mines or issue fines for safety violations. Inspectors apparently wouldn't even be allowed issue notifications of safety violations under the bill.
The audacity is unavoidably comedic because, for fuck's sake, this places the financial burden of responding to preventable disasters exclusively on state taxpayers. And, needless to say, it costs significantly more money to respond to a disaster than it does to prevent disasters from occurring in the first place.
And it gets worse.
According to the Gazzette-Mail, the bill would hold individual employees of mining companies responsible for violations and disasters while shielding owners and operators.
None of this is going to resurrect the coal industry. This isn't going to bring back jobs. No one wants to die in a coal mine for poverty wages. This will shield exploitative companies and owners from virtually all responsibility as the last remnants of their industry wither and die. And what a mess they're going to leave behind.
No one is Making America Great Again here.