Today's Wall Street Journal ran a piece on the explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine operated by Massey Energy Company in West Virgina.
The article discusses how the mine circumvented inspections by the Mine Safety and Health Administration. MSHA inspections were only conducted during the day, so miners who worked other shifts did not benefit from those inspections. And when MSHA inspectors came onto the property, the words "we've got a man on the property" were radioed throughout the mine so that evidence of safety violations could be hidden.
And what were those safety violations? Massey had illegal mine evacuation procedures and regularly failed to hang ventilation curtains or conduct any safety operations that interfered with or delayed the production of coal, all despite the fact that the mine was filled with a high level of explosive methane gas.
Steve Morgan, whose 21 year old son Adam died in the explosion, tells a particularly painful story. His son was an apprentice, but was required to work alone, in violation of federal safety laws. Adam was sent home a week before the blast because of high gas levels. And when Adam complained, his boss suggested that perhaps Adam was in the wrong line of work.
So don't call this explosion an accident. It was an inevitability caused by corporate greed and government ineptitude.
This is what small government looks like
So here in New Jersey, home to many chemical labs and food processing plants, we need to think very, very carefully before we decide that we want a smaller government.