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Letter to the Editor: Committee cautions

By BRUCE WILSON
Chair, Emery County Public Lands Department

Editor,

The catastrophic events of the past weeks have touched the communities of Carbon and Emery County deeply. The initial shock of a mining accident and the roller coaster of emotions which have followed leave us saddened, and unfortunately on somewhat familiar ground. Our communities are grateful for the care, compassion and support each of you has shown as the unfortunate events unfolded. At present, we find ourselves grieving with the families of the lost, trying to look to the future now. Following each mining accident, there comes the time when each of us ask the inevitable question, how did this happen? Could it have been prevented?

The recent action taken at the national and state levels are, we believe, natural and expected responses to a catastrophe which has claimed the lives of nine irreplaceable men. We understand that Senator Bennett has cautioned against reacting emotionally and in a knee-jerk manner. We appreciate that caution. As the committees have been formed to review facts and circumstances surounding the events at the Crandall Canyon Mine, we have no doubt that the intent is noble and with the best of intentions. However, we would advance the following cautions in regard to any proposed recommendations by these committees.

•Avoid taking an "outside looking in" attitude. It is always easiest to become the Monday morning quarterback and have all the easy answers after the fact.

•At the state level, there appears to be an out of balance proportion of elected officials to those with underground mining experience. Seek out the testimony of those with underground mining experience. There is no substitute for hands on experience.

•Please don't impose further regulations on this industry just for the sake of "doing something". Underground mining is currently one of the most regulated industries in the nation, for understandable reasons. Reasonable measures addressing overlooked or new safety concerns are always necessary. Redundant requirements serve no purpose.

•Recommendations from the committees should be pro-active, preventive measures, not reactive and punitive in nature.

•Coal mining and coal fired power generation are under the gun from proponents of alternative energy sources who are prone to argue that accidents such as this are just another reason to scrap proposed plans for coal fired power plants. Such arguments should be outside the scope of the committee hearings.

•There are regulatory agencies in place both at the state and national levels. Mine Safety and Health Administration, Office of Surface Mining and the Utah Division of Oil Gas and Mining set standards, permit mining, and are responsible for safe mining plans and implementation of those plans. Mistakes, illegalities, non-conforming practices (if any) will be determined by these agencies. While oversight is necessary, please don't intend for the committees to do the job of existing agencies.

We appreciate your attentiveness to our concerns.





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