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West Virginia Republicans want to gut mine safety rules as Trump looks to loosen federal standards

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A bill under consideration by the West Virginia Senate would eliminate mine safety enforcement as the White House considers weakening federal health and safety standards.

The Republican-backed legislation would strip regulators of their authority to write health and safety regulations, and mine operators wouldn’t be fined for violating those standards, reported the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

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Inspectors would not be authorized to issue notices of violation unless they could prove “imminent danger” of deaths or serious harm, and they would be encouraged to target specific mine employees rather than mine operators or coal companies if such violations were found.

Mine safety experts are shocked by how broadly Senate Bill 582, which is backed by the mining industry, eliminates most enforcement of laws and rules put in place over many years in response to hundreds of coal miners’ deaths.

Mine operators would instead be required to follow U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration regulations — which President Donald Trump has promised to weaken at the request of the coal industry.

“It completely guts the state law,” said Josh Roberts, international health and safety director for the United Mine Workers union. “You’re taking back decades of laws.”

The Senate bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Randy Smith (R-Tucker), chairs the Energy, Industry and Mining Committee and works as a safety manager for Mettiki Coal, whose parent company, Alliance Resource Partners, donated heavily to his election campaign.

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“If I could do it, I would conform with state laws and do away with federal laws,” Smith told the newspaper, “but that’s not going to happen. I would 10 times rather have the state agency telling us what to do instead of the federal.”

The bill would rewrite the state’s environmental regulations — including strip mine cleanup and waterway classifications — and consolidate mine safety boards into one panel.

Lawmakers might also add a controversial amendment rewriting water quality standards, a legislative committee lawyer told the newspaper.

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“It’s breathtaking in its scope,” said Davitt McAteer, who ran the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration during the Clinton administration.

“It is shocking that, after all these years and the numbers of West Virginians who have died in the mines, for the state to even consider this,” McAteer added. “The state needs to be involved in making sure we are protecting our citizens. This should be one of the primary goals of the state government.”

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West Virginia led the nation in coal mining deaths last year, with four, and two miners have already died this year.


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2020 Election

Trump advisors futilely trying to get him to stop ranting about statues as his re-election prospects collapse: report

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According to a report focusing on Donald Trump's rally at Mt. Rushmore on the evening before the 4th of July, advisors to the president ate attempting to get him to start focusing on bread and butter issues that will get him re-elected instead of harping on statues being pulled down by protesters across the country.

As the Daily Beast report illustrates, their efforts appear to be futile based upon his Friday night speech.

With the president trying to fire up the crowd by insisting, “Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders. They think the American people are weak, and soft, and submissive,” the Beast reported that Trump, "decided to focus heavily Friday evening on protesters and Black Lives Matter activists who want various American monuments, including those honoring Confederate, white-supremacist, and slave-owning figures of history, torn down and destroyed for good. "

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Trump’s a traitor — and the Russian bounty scandal is the final straw

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The first story of the rest of Donald Trump's life was published last Friday in the New York Times, revealing that the Russian intelligence agency known as the GRU has been paying bonuses to Taliban fighters to kill Americans, and that this intelligence had been reported to Trump and had been known at least since March. The story was subsequently confirmed by the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the AP.

This article first appeared in Salon.

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2020 Election

GOP scrambling to pay for Jacksonville convention after Trump yanked it from North Carolina: report

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According to a report from the New York Times, Republican officials are having difficulties getting donors to pay for the Republican National Convention to be held in Jacksonville, Florida after Donald Trump yanked the gathering out of Charlotte, North Carolina in a fit of pique over COVID-19 health restrictions.

At issue, the report notes, is that millions of dollars were spent in North Carolina where a smaller event will now be held, and now the party is, in essence, forced to pay for a second convention.

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