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Qtec
08-09-2004, 05:29 AM
August 9, 2004
Friends in the White House Come to Coal's Aid
By CHRISTOPHER DREW and RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr.

ASHINGTON - In 1997, as a top executive of a Utah mining company, David Lauriski proposed a measure that could allow some operators to let coal-dust levels rise substantially in mines. The plan went nowhere in the government.

Last year, it found enthusiastic backing from one government official - Mr. Lauriski himself. Now head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, he revived the proposal despite objections by union officials and health experts that it could put miners at greater risk of black-lung disease.

The reintroduction of the coal dust measure came after the federal agency had abandoned a series of Clinton-era safety proposals favored by coal miners while embracing others favored by mine owners.

The agency's effort to rewrite coal regulations is part of a broader push by the Bush administration to help an industry that had been out of favor in Washington. As a candidate four years ago, Mr. Bush promised to expand energy supplies, in part by reviving coal's fortunes, particularly in Appalachia, where coal regions will also help decide how swing states like West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio vote this year.

The president has also made good on a 2000 campaign pledge to ease environmental restrictions that industry officials said were threatening jobs in coal country. That promise led many West Virginia miners, who traditionally voted Democratic, to join coal operators in supporting Mr. Bush. It helped him win the state's five electoral votes, ultimately the margin of victory.

Safety and environmental regulations often shift with control of the White House, but the Bush administration's approach to coal mining has been a particularly potent example of the blend of politics and policy.

In addition to Mr. Lauriski, who spent 30 years in the coal industry, Mr. Bush tapped a handful of other industry executives and lobbyists to help oversee safety and environmental regulations.

In all, the mine safety agency has rescinded more than a half-dozen proposals intended to make coal miners' jobs safer, including steps to limit miners' exposure to toxic chemicals. One rule pushed by the agency would make it easier for companies to use diesel generators underground, which miners say could increase the risk of fire.

In an interview, Mr. Lauriski said that the proposals that were canceled were unnecessary. He said the agency had instead concentrated on other measures "we believed were important to pursue."


I find this amazing.

I,ll bet you wont find this story on Fox. /ccboard/images/graemlins/grin.gif

Q