Confined Space
News and Commentary on Workplace Health & Safety, Labor and Politics

Sunday, September 25, 2005


More on MSHA Nominee Richard Stickler

The Charleston, West Virginia Gazette has a long article on the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) Mystery Man, Richard Stickler, who President Bush nominated last week. Most of the article is just a review of Stickler's career, from being captain of the Barrackville High School basketball team that won 27 games in a row, from mine laborer to management of Beth Energy’s Boone County holdings in West Virginia, to being a manager for Performance Coal, and finally to a government position in Pennsylvania where he ran into a bit of controversy:
In March 1997, Stickler was named director of Pennsylvania’s underground mine safety agency, a post he held until July 2003.

Carol Raulston, a spokeswoman for the National Mining Association, said that Pennsylvania made “great strides” in mine safety during Stickler’s time with the state agency. “He clearly has a great deal of experience with mine safety and health,” Raulston said.

While he was in the Pennsylvania job, nine coal miners were trapped for three days in a flooded underground mine near Somerset, Pa.

Various investigations have said that state and federal regulators — including the agency that Stickler was running — could have done more to prevent the Quecreek flood.


For example, a state grand jury issued a report that said, before approving a permit for the operation, the state could have required Quecreek Mining to confirm the location of a flooded underground mine that the workers accidentally drilled into, causing the flood.
(you can read more background of the Quecreek incident here.

It's hard to tell exactly what to make of Stickler. He's held a number of management positions, as well as one government job. (And does anyone know what he was doing after he left the Pennsylvania job in 2003?) As former Clinton MSHA director Davit McAteer said
Stickler is “a guy with a history in the mining industry, and this is a job that requires you to represent everybody — not one side or the other. I hope he meets that challenge.”
I hope so, but most of Bush's nominees have failed (miserably) to meet that challenge. New OSHA nominee Ed Foulke, of the union busting firm Jackson Lewis, doesn't exactly make me optimistic about these new appointments.

Go ahead, prove me wrong.

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