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McEntee: Mine victims invisible as Romney campaigns with Bob Murray

Published May 8, 2012 7:54 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Mitt Romney is all for coal mining, and he proved that recently with a $2,500-per-person campaign stop in West Virginia, where he was introduced by the coal magnate Bob Murray.

Maybe Romney was too busy running for president in 2007 to notice that Murray's Crandall Canyon coal mine collapsed twice in 2007, killing six miners and three would-be rescuers. Or that Murray claimed an earthquake caused the first failure even when seismologists determined it did not.

Or that the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration issued a report a year later finding that Genwal Resources, a Murray Energy Corp. subsidiary, was operating under three findings of high "negligence" in three of its Crandall mining plan elements and with "reckless disregard" in three others.

Perhaps it also did not come to the candidate's attention that earlier this year an outraged federal judge fined Genwal just $500,000 for the disaster — all that the law would allow.

The victims' families were devastated.

Murray's behavior during the Crandall Canyon recovery effort bewildered many observers and family members: he bragged about his private jet, yelled at those families and decried the notion of global climate change.

On Thursday, Murray — a big donor to Republican candidates — introduced Romney to about 680 attendees at a fundraiser in Wheeling, W.V., and seized the moment to attack President Barack Obama, according to The Huffington Post.

"Jobs and family livelihoods are being destroyed as [Obama] appeases his radical environmentalist friends, the unionists, the liberal elites on the 'left' coasts and in New England, [the] Hollywood characters and his other constituents," he said.

While Obama has backed solar and wind power as promising energy sources, he also acknowledges that domestic resources of oil, natural gas, nuclear power and "clean" coal — which means reducing pollutants from coal-fired power plants — remain on the table.

Romney, according to The Post, gave a standard stump speech, which usually includes the bit about how Obama favors only above-ground energy sources, but he likes above- and below-ground sources to free America from its dependence on foreign energy.

Evidently the sorrows of nine families in Utah's coal country don't mean a hill of beans to the mighty and powerful, be they magnates or wealthy presidential candidates.

But given the pairing of Murray and Romney, those of us who will never forget the Crandall Canyon mine disaster need to be pretty damn selective when it comes to the presidential election next fall.

Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at pegmcentee@sltrib.com, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter, @Peg McEntee.