News

Attorney: Gulf, mine disasters linked to safety violations

Lax regulations cause

for industry deaths

First was the West Virginia mine cave-in, caused was a pocket of methane. On an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, the cause was likely a pocket of hydrocarbons.

In both cases, industrial disaster — and the deaths that followed — could have been averted had the companies running the projects paid more attention to worker safety and less attention to potential profits, a Milam County attorney said.

“These two disasters are the result of 30 years of deregulation and a corporate culture that prizes profits over human life,” said Richard A. Dodd, an attorney in Cameron, who has more than 25 years experience representing the families of workers killed in industrial settings.

“It’s particularly galling that both companies involved have a record of resisting attempts to upgrade federal safety regulations,” said Dodd, adding that industry and business groups typically insist it is more efficient for industry to self-regulate than to follow basic government safety standards. “More efficient for who?”

In early April, 29 West Virginia coal miners died in the worst U.S. mining disaster in nearly four decades. After the disaster, investigative reports indicated the mine, run by Massey Energy, had been plagued by safety violations, Dodd said. “In fact, workers had been forced to evacuate the mine 64 times since 2009,” he added.

Massey was able to keep the mine open through extensive use of regulations that allowed mining companies to challenge violations and to maintain operations until they were resolved.

In late April, 11 workers were killed when the Deepwater Horizon, a massive oil rig anchored in the Gulf of Mexico aout 50 miles off the Louisiana coast exploded, burned, then sank.

Now, with an estimated 250,000 gallons of crude gushing into the Gulf each day, a broad stretch of the Gulf Coast will be tarred with a scum of oil in what may be the worst environmental disaster since the Exxon Valdez in 1989.

Recent news accounts report the companies that operated the oil rig, BP and TransOcean, aggressively opposed new safety regulations proposed last year by a federal agency that oversees offshore drilling, Dodd said.

According to a study into workplace accidents conducted by the Minerals and Management Service of the Interior Department, there was “no discernible improvement by industry over the past 7 years.”

“If anything, these two disasters, and the attending loss of life, show the need for greater oversight, not less,” Dodd said.


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2010-05-06 digital edition



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