With the Obama administration EPA’s clean-air regulations squeezing the coal industry into a tight spot, the economic sector that generates 42 percent of America’s electricity is pulling out all the stops to re-frame coal in a friendly light. And a well-bred companion is the latest defensive weapon in what coal miners say is the president’s “war on coal.”
Ginny is a Dutch Shepherd that Alpha Natural Resources — a major coal producer — hopes will give the public a less one-sided view of the industry by shining a bright light on safety issues.
A June 2 ”Rally for Appalachian Coal” in Abingdon, Va. gathered thousands from Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Pennsylvania. West Virginia state Sen. Art Kirkendoll spoke at the rally, saying, “It’s going to take all the people from the Appalachian states and help from across this great nation to win this [war on coal], but we will continue to fight for our coal jobs, miners, families, communities and our way of life,” the Williamson Daily News reported.
Ginny has been training since she was three years old. Alpha Natural Resources reports that she may be the first dog to be trained in both surface and underground coal mine rescues.
“The skills that Ginny has mastered make her an amazing dog,” her handler Rick McAllister said, ”but what’s most impressive is her incredible resolve and what I call ‘nerve strength,’ which can’t be taught. Even in a tough situation, Ginny stays focused and gets the job done. She’s a true professional.”
The dog works in a protective vest attached to an infrared camera that sends back images from inaccessible areas and unstable underground environments. The vest is also equipped with gas and atmospheric detectors that sound an alarm to signal Ginny to retreat when she enters a dangerous atmosphere.
The coal industry is unlikely to win any political battles with Man’s Best Friend, but coal mining is a dangerous occupation. A sharp-sensed canine shows the industry is willing to innovate in order to make it as safe as any job hundreds — or even thousands — of feet underground can possibly be.