Commentary: Same weak enforcement plagues both oil drilling and coal mining

The unfolding story of this country's worst oil spill has a familiar ring in Kentucky because of what our experience with coal has taught us to expect:

Corporate management that puts production above all.

Cozy relationships between regulators and the regulated.

Government agencies that behave more as servants of industry than enforcers of the law.

Profound damage to the environment, people and culture of a region.

"National sacrifice zone" is the phrase coined by author Jeff Goodell to describe what the rapacious stripping of coal to generate electricity has made of Kentucky and West Virginia.

Now our thirst for oil threatens to exact an equally high price from the Gulf of Mexico, turning its beaches, marshes, bayous, people and wildlife into another national sacrifice zone.

Last week, as it was revealed that BP and the federal government had been grossly underestimating the size of the spill, The New York Times reported that BP used the riskier of two methods to seal the well, partly for financial reasons.

Eleven people died in the April 20 explosion which, according to BP's investigation, came after five hours of warning signs that something was wrong.

The failure of the rig's blowout preventers raise questions about whether the safety devices would work on other Gulf rigs.

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