Monday, August 21, 2006

Mine Disaster Publicity Brings Good News and Bad

Louisville Courier Journal columnist David Hawpe says all the news about coal mine hazards this year brings good news and bad news.
All the publicity, all the pressure, all the potential for political damage came to bear earlier this month when something extraordinary happened:

The Republican-controlled Senate sent back to the White House the Bush nominations of Richard Stickler to be assistant secretary of Labor for mine safety and John Correll to be head of Interior's Office of Surface Mining.

Like so many Bush nominees, Stickler came from the industry he was supposed to regulate. He managed mines that, according a United Mine Workers' analysis, had injury rates double the national average. As a Pennsylvania agency head, the UMW said, he oversaw an operation that failed to prevent the Quecreek mine disaster.

Correll, as described by Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, was part of the Mine Safety and Health Administration leadership that preferred cooperating with industry to confronting its bad attitudes and practices, that undercut the inspection system, that sabotaged safety rules and that turned MSHA's investigation of the Martin County spill into a coverup. The Bush White House thought he was just the man to oversee the nation's surface mines. The Senate said no.

The bad news?

The folks who want industry-friendly regulation and sent those nominations to the Senate are still in the White House.
But come next January, we may at least have better oversight into what they're doing if all goes well on November 7.