The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 2, 2013

Thumbs — Saturday, February 2, 2013

— Thumbs up ... to fatality rates in U.S. mines hitting an all-time low last year. The Mine Safety and Health Administration says 36 miners died in 2012 — 19 in coal mines and 17 in metal and nonmetal operations. West Virginia lost the most with seven, while Kentucky lost five. The safest year was 2009, when fatalities hit a low of 35. Even with the improved numbers, even one fatality is one too many.

Thumbs up ... to the University of Charleston for reaching its largest total enrollment in 30 years of full-time enrollment. The three new locations that opened in January helped the university reach a total enrollment of 1,884 and a full-time enrollment for Spring 2013 of 1,669. UC’s full-time enrollment surpasses 1972’s mark of 1,567. Currently, UC has 1,367 students taking courses in Charleston and 517 taking courses in its regional network at UC-Beckley, UC-Martinsburg and UC-Net (online).

Thumbs up ... to the Federal Emergency Management Agency sending more than $2.5 million to West Virginia — so far — to help the state recover from Superstorm Sandy. The storm dumped more than 2 feet of snow in the highest elevations, toppling trees and tearing down power lines in October. FEMA covered 64 projects but will likely dole out $13 million altogether, for another 180 projects. Eighteen counties were eligible for help.

Thumbs down ... to nearly half of West Virginians having almost no savings to carry them through crises such as the loss of a job or a serious health problem. Forty-seven percent of residents have no financial cushion, including a majority of residents who live below the federal poverty level of $23,050 for a family of four, according to the Corporation for Enterprise Development.

Thumbs down ... to a rule that could toughen the limits on methane gas levels in West Virginia coal mines remaining stalled as state officials debate both definitions and a timetable for implementation. The state Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety failed to reach a quorum because three members were out of town for a protest related to the bankruptcy of Patriot Coal.

Thumbs up ... to West Virginia University’s Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism, which could soon expand the availability of online and traditional classes for military service members and others who have studied in a Defense Department training program. The Defense Information School is the Defense Department’s premier institution for public affairs and visual information training.

Thumbs up ... to the National Mining Association saying global demand for coal and other natural resources bodes well for the industry, particularly in developing countries. President Hal Quinn says coal is on track to become the world’s primary energy source, surpassing oil by 2015. In the U.S., total coal consumption is expected to grow by 50 million tons over last year, due in part to cooler weather and natural gas prices that the Energy Information Administration predicts will jump 22 percent.

Thumbs up ... to West Virginia being honored with a stamp this year to commemorate the state’s 150th anniversary. The stamp will be a part of the Postal Service’s global “forever” stamp series. It features a 2008 image by Tyler County photographer Roger Spencer showing an early morning view from the Highland Scenic Highway in Pocahontas County. An issue date has not been announced.