Thursday, November 13, 2003

The Dirty business of a Bush Environmental disaster coverup

(Mining Engineer Jack Spadaro) was selected to be one of eight members of an accident investigation team to determine the causes of the nation's largest coal slurry spill at the Martin County Coal Company in Inez, Kt., on Oct. 11, 2000.

A coal slurry impoundment is a reservoir of thick liquid waste from coal processing that is constructed by damming the mouth of a valley with rock and earth. To residents living near these impoundments, they are disasters waiting to happen. The EPA called the Inez spill the worst environmental catastrophe in the history of the Eastern United States. Far more extensive in damage than the widely known 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska, the Martin County Coal slurry spill dumped an estimated 306 million gallons of toxic sludge down 100 miles of waterways.

Jack Spadaro has made it his life's work to figure out why these spills happen and how to stop them. But right now he is awaiting final word from officials at the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), a wing of the U.S. Department of Labor that is a lead regulatory agency for the coal industry, as to whether he will retain his job as the superintendent of the National Mine Safety and Health Academy, MSHA's training facility. His superiors are accusing him of a raft of misbehaviors -- including "abusing his authority" and "failing to follow instructions." But as far as he's concerned, the reason he's facing dismissal is very simple: He's been in hot water since January 2001 -- when Bush administration officials took control of the Martin County Coal investigation.


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