Saturday, January 28, 2006

Mineworkers Call On Bush To Withdraw Nomination of MSHA Nominee

Back in September, when Bush nominated Richard Stickler to head the Mine Safety and Health Administration, no one (except the United Mineworkers Union) seemed to care much about MSHA or the qualifications of the people in charge. How times have changed. The last thing we need right now is another "Brownie" to do "a hell of a job" with the safety of America's miners.

The confirmation hearing for Stickler and Edwin Foulke as heads of MSHA and OSHA will be held Tuesday morning. Given that the Congress has rarely held any oversight hearings covering OSHA or MSHA in the past five years, the hearing had originally promised to be moderately interesting. Given the events in West Virginia mines over the past month, the hearing looks like it will be much more interesting, particularly Stickler's.

Earlier this week, the United Mineworkers union called on President Bush to withdraw Stickler's nomination. Noting that MSHA is "riddled with former coal company executives," UMW President Cecil Roberts stated that
“America’s coal miners don’t need a coal company executive in charge at MSHA,” Roberts said. “We need a person who understands safety from the miner ’s point of view, and is committed to making the health and safety of the miner the agency’s first priority once again.”
Stickler was a mine industry executive before being appointed to run Pennsylvania's Bureau of Deep Mine Safety in 1997. Prior to running the agency, the mines he managed had injury rates that were double the national average, according to government data assembled by the Mineworkers.

His performance in his new job wasn't much better. Stickler was head of Deep Mine Safety during the 2002 Quecreek mine disaster where nine miners were saved from a flooded mine.
The attorney who represents eight of the trapped miners said he does not support Stickler's appointment because of the secrecy involved in the investigation that followed.

Also, a grand jury in 2003 determined the state agency should have red-flagged mapping problems that were blamed for miners at Quecreek breaching an abandoned mine that released millions of gallons of water. The grand jury did not fault any individuals.

''He's going to have to demonstrate that he's willing to be an advocate for miners' safety,'' said Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.).
Well, hopefully he's at least he's learned not to walk out on the Senators.

More 2006 Mine Disaster Stories