Tuesday, November 16, 2004

MSHA Head Lauriski Resigns

First Ashcroft, then Powell, and now Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety, Dave Lauriski is resigning.

The Wheeling News Register doesn't think the Bush administration should rush to appoint a successor:
One reason the United Mine Workers of America failed to endorse Bush for re-election involved concern about enforcement of safety and health regulations. UMW officials didn't think Lauriski and the Mine Safety and Health Administration were doing enough to protect them.

Mining is among the most dangerous jobs in the nation, from the standpoints of both health and safety. While it never can be made entirely without risk, miners deserve the best protection possible. In such a situation, effective government oversight and enforcement is essential.

Has MSHA been doing its job adequately? We don't know - but now would be a good time to conduct an objective evaluation concerning the issue. Answers to specific questions about enforcement of mine safety and health rules would provide guidance to Lauriski's successor. They could help him understand whether change is needed - or whether, perhaps, amendments in mine health and safety laws are in order.
Lauriski, a former top executive for a mining company, had come under fire for his close ties to industry and for rolling back or issuing weak regulations that control dust levels and diesel exhaust fumes in mines. And all of these actions were accompanied by major contributions to Republicans by the mining industry.

Meanwhile, Washington Post regulatory reporter Cindy Skrzycki describes today the United Mineworkers' extreme disastisfaction with Bush's MSHA.
Joseph A. Main, health and safety director of the United Mine Workers of America, figures he has his work cut out for him.

For the past four years, the union has been dissatisfied with decisions the Bush administration's Mine Safety and Health Administration has made to place former industry officials in high-ranking jobs and eliminate long-standing regulatory proposals.

"They pretty much pulled off all the progressive regulations already," said Main, a former miner. "Those regulations should not have been withdrawn and make the difference between whether miners are protected or not."

Among the regulatory proposals no longer being worked on, some of them spanning years and administrations, are those addressing safety issues with self-rescue respiratory devices for miners, the shortage of mine rescue teams, problems with huge trucks that are the leading cause of mine fatalities, fire-resistant conveyer belts in mines, and improved air quality rules.

Since the new MSHA team came to office, 17 of the 26 rules that were in some stage of completion were taken off the agency's regulatory agenda. The union wants more attention focused on safety rules at mines since coal production is expected to increase under the Bush administration to fill the nation's energy needs.
Anyone want to take any bets on John Henshaw?