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Overview:

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is the Department of Labor’s lead agency for protecting workers in the American mining industry. With a jurisdiction covering 12,700 metal and nonmetal mines and 2,100 coal mines, MSHA is charged with enforcing safety regulations that are designed to eliminate work-related accidents and health hazards. Despite its mandate to protect mine workers, MSHA has compromised mine safety as a result of its actions during the administration of President George W. Bush, which has appointed agency leaders from the ranks of mining companies.

more
History:

Congress passed the first coal mine safety law in 1891. The legislation established minimum ventilation requirements at underground coal mines in US territories and prohibited children under 12 years of age from working in mines. The law did little to reduce the occurrence of mine accidents, which caused 2,000 deaths a year during the early 20th century.

           
In an attempt to improve working conditions in mines, lawmakers in 1910 established the Bureau of Mines as a new agency in the Department of the Interior. The bureau was charged with conducting research and reducing accidents in the coal mining industry, but was given no inspection authority until 1941, when Congress empowered federal inspectors to enter mines. In 1947, Congress authorized the formulation of the first code of federal regulations for mine safety.
 
The Federal Coal Mine Safety Act of 1952 provided for annual inspections in certain underground coal mines and gave the bureau limited enforcement authority, including the power to issue violation notices and imminent danger withdrawal orders. The act also authorized the assessment of civil penalties against mine operators for preventing federal inspectors from examining mines. In 1966, Congress extended coverage of the 1952 Coal Act to all underground coal mines.
 
The first federal legislation that regulated non-coal mines was the Federal Metal and Nonmetallic Mine Safety Act of 1966. The act helped create standards, many of which were only advisory, for inspections and investigations. However, the law had few teeth for federal regulators to enforce the law’s provisions.
 
The Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 (known as the Coal Act) was tougher than any previous federal legislation governing the mining industry. The Coal Act covered surface as well as underground coal mines, required two annual inspections of every surface coal mine and four at every underground coal mine and dramatically increased federal enforcement powers in coal mines. The Coal Act also required monetary penalties for all violations and established criminal penalties for knowing and willful violations. The safety standards for all coal mines were strengthened, and health standards were adopted. The Coal Act included specific procedures for the development of improved mandatory health and safety standards and provided compensation for miners who were totally and permanently disabled by the progressive respiratory disease caused by the inhalation of fine coal dust pneumoconiosis or “black lung.”
 
In 1973, the Secretary of the Interior created the Mining Enforcement and Safety Administration (MESA), which assumed the safety and health enforcement functions formerly carried out by the Bureau of Mines. The goal was to avoid conflicts of interest between the enforcement of mine safety and health standards and the bureau’s responsibilities for mineral resource development.
 
In 1978, Congress passed the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (Mine Act), which led to the creation of the Mine Safety and Health Administration in the Department of Labor. The Mine Act amended the 1969 Coal Act, consolidated all federal health and safety regulations of the mining industry under one authority, strengthened and expanded the rights of miners, enhanced the protection of miners from retaliation for exercising such rights, and established the independent Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission to review MSHA’s enforcement actions.
 
Mining fatalities dropped sharply under the Mine Act from 272 in 1977 to 72 in 2001. However, coal mining jumped to 47 in 2006, the most in eleven years. In 2007, the number of coal mining fatalities was 33.In January 2006, a fatal accident at the Sago mining site in West Virginia killed 12 underground coal miners by monoxide poisoning. In August 2007, Utah’s Crandall Canyon coal mine experienced a cave-in that trapped six miners who later perished. Three other miners, including an MSHA inspector, also died when they tried to rescue the trapped miners.
 
Family members, labor officials and Democrats in Congress blasted the Bush administration for failing to protect miners by appointing industry executives at MSHA (see Controversies).
 
more
What it Does:

Part of the Department of Labor, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is responsible for helping protect employees who work in mines across the United States. MSHA enforces safety regulations for mining sites, and attempts to eliminate work-related accidents and health hazards. The agency also conducts education and training designed to improve safety conditions for miners. MSHA has jurisdiction over an estimated 12,700 metal and nonmetal mines and 2,100 coal mines nationwide.

           
MSHA Key Offices
Coal Mine Safety and Health enforces the Mine Act at all coal mines, including conducting inspections that encompass four complete annual inspections of underground coal mines and two complete annual inspections of surface coal mines. This division also investigates fatal and serious nonfatal accidents, issues citations and orders for any observed violations and conducts safety and health conferences with mine operators on citations and orders that are issued. For each violation, mine operators may be required to pay fines. Additionally, Coal Mine Safety and Health approves roof control, ventilation and training plans required to be submitted by mine operators, directs various mine safety and health assistance programs and trains and certifies instructors. According to MSHA, there are about 2,100 coal mines in 27 states. The agency had 584 inspectors in 2005, down from 634 in 1997.
 
Metal and Nonmetal Safety and Health enforces the Mine Act at all metal and nonmetal mining operations in the United States. This includes conducting inspections and investigations at the mine sites to insure their compliance with health and safety standards. Inspectors and investigators issue citations when violations are discovered and order mine operators to correct problems. This division also investigates mine accidents, complaints of discrimination and hazardous conditions reported by miners, and criminal violations. They are about 12,450 metal and nonmetal operations in the United States employing more than 225,000 people.
 
Directorate of Educational Policy and Development implements MSHA’s education and training programs designed to promote safety and health in the mining industry. The directorate has three main components: the Policy and Program Coordination Division, the National Mine Health and Safety Academy in Beckley, West Virginia, and Educational Field Services. The directorate also administers the State Grants Program, which provides funding to state mining agencies to supplement their mining health and safety programs, and it sponsors the Joseph A. Holmes Safety Association.
 
Office of Assessments assesses and collects financial penalties from mine operators for violations of the Mine Act and of mine safety and health standards. These activities include accounting for all penalty cases in litigation before the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission and in federal courts and collecting and accounting for all delinquent penalties.
 
Directorate of Technical Support provides engineering and scientific expertise to assist MSHA, state governments and the mining industry in resolving safety and health issues. Technical support conducts field investigations, laboratory studies and analyses to resolve specific problems. Equipment and materials used in mines are also evaluated and approved by the directorate. Mine emergency response plans and protocols are also maintained by the directorate.
more
Where Does the Money Go:

The Mine Safety and Heath Administration has spent more than $200 million on 1,686 contractors this decade. According to USAspending.gov, MSHA paid for a variety of services, from programming to telecommunications, in support of its mission. Oddly, of the top 10 contractors MSHA paid, No. 4 on the list is the federal government, consisting of the Health Resources and Services Administration, Federal Prison Industries Inc., Veterans Health Administration, GSA Heartland Finance Center and General Services. The complete top 10 are as follows:

 
  • Envision Technology Partners                                       $18,594,153
  • Basic Contracting Services                                             $9,890,757
  • Client Network Services (CNSI)                                       $8,390.014
  • US Government                                                             $7,708,800
  • Mine Safety Appliances                                                  $7,421,086
  • Advanced Resource Technologies                                   $7,150,211
  • Wheeling Jesuit University                                              $5,859.298
  • AES Group                                                                    $4,990,753
  • Eyak Corporation                                                           $4,307,478
  • American Electric Power                                                $3,744,142
 
CNSI, a provider of IT business solutions for government and commercial enterprises, received a $33.6 million contract in 2007 from MSHA. CNSI is providing IT systems support services, including maintenance and development of software systems, e-Government systems support and helpdesk support. Also, CNSI is maintaining database, data warehouse and other IT systems, including the MSHA Standardized Information System (MSIS) which is the agency’s centralized, enterprise management information system.
more
Controversies:

Inspector General Blasts MSHA for Utah Disaster

In April 2008, the Department of Labor’s Inspector General (IG) issued a report that found MSHA negligent of protecting the safety of mine workers at Crandall Canyon in Utah, where nine workers died in August 2007. The cave-in at Randall Canyon was blamed on a mining technique known as retreat mining, a dangerous procedure that allows mining companies to extract more coal at risk of collapses. MSHA had approved the use of retreat mining by the mining company. The IG found in reviewing the agency’s records that it could not show it had made the right decision based on the information available.
Agency Faulted on Protection at Utah Mine (by Kirk Johnson, New York Times)
 
MSHA Not Collecting Fines
Following the Sago mining disaster in January 2006, media scrutiny of MSHA led to examinations of the agency’s work, particularly in the area of regulating mining company activities. The New York Times reported that the agency had decreased major fines for safety violations since 2001 and that in many cases MSHA had not collected fines at all.
 
Furthermore, MSHA had not turned over any delinquent cases to the Treasury Department for further collection efforts, as it is supposed to do after 180 days. An MSHA official blamed the failure on computer problems that had not been fixed in three years.
 
The Times found that the number of major fines issued in 2004 at the maximum level was one in 10, down from one in 5 in 2003.
Mine fines routinely ignored (by Ken Ward, Jr., Charleston Gazette)
U.S. Is Reducing Safety Penalties for Mine Flaws (by Ian Urbina and Andrew W. Lehren, New York Times)
 
MSHA Leader Helps Industry
In November 2004, President Bush’s first head of MSHA, Dave Lauriski, a former mining company executive, stepped down after three years of questionable decision-making. Lauriski tried unsuccessfully to weaken federal regulations governing coal dust levels in mines. The change would have helped Lauriski’s former company, Energy West Mining Company of Utah, which led other mining companies to oppose the plan.
           
Under Lauriski, MSHA rescinded more than half a dozen proposals intended to make coal miners’ jobs safer, including steps to limit their exposure to toxic chemicals. One rule pushed by the agency made it easier for companies to use diesel generators underground, which miners said could increase the risk of fire.
           
Shortly before Lauriski resigned, the Labor Department’s Inspector General issued a report that revealed MSHA had improperly awarded no-bid, single-source contracts to companies. Two of those companies had ties to Lauriski and one of his assistants.
MSHA and the Sago Mine Disaster (by Scott Lilly, Center for American Progress)
 
MSHA Kills Investigation of Mining Pollution
In 2004, 60 Minutes reported that the Mine Safety and Health Administration had cut short an investigation of Massey Energy, which was responsible for allowing 300 million gallons of coal slurry to flood 100 miles of stream in Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia. The environmental disaster was described as being 25 times the size of the Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska.
 
A team of MSHA investigators were told to end their investigation before the agency could level fines against the company. In addition, an agency official was fired after he blew the whistle on the squashed investigation.
A Toxic Cover-Up (CBS 60 Minutes) (PDF)
more
Former Directors:

Dave D. Lauriski 2001 to 2004

 
J. Davitt McAteer 1994 to 2000 Solicitor of Safety for UMWA 1972+
 
William J. Tattersall 1989 to 1993 Bethlehem Steel attorney and energy lobbyist
 
David C. O’Neal 1988 to 1989 Deputy Director of Bureau of Land Management 1985-1988
 
David A. Zegeer 1983 to 1987 retired as manager of Beth-Elkhorn Corp. in 1977 after 30 years, mostly with Bethlehem Steel
 
Ford B. Ford 1981 to 1983 vice president of the California Institute for Industrial and Governmental Relations; told to curtail MSHA power
 
Robert B. Lagather 1978 to 1981 Worked for 11 years (1951-1962) for UMWA Welfare and Retirement Fund; joined Department of Labor in 1962
more

Comments

Robert Parker 5 months ago
How do I find out about my retirement fund. I was in an auto accident on my way to work in 1993 that disabled me. I worked underground for 19 years plus one year medical leave after my accident. Now I'm trying to collect my Coal Miners pension and I haven't been able to contact the company (Costain Coal) I worked for to find out to receive my pension. I contacted Dept. Of Labor and they could not help. Who can help me? In need of dire help.
Art Ellis 3 years ago
The Obama administration has followed suite with the Bush administration by appointing Neal Merrifield, a mining company executive to the position of Administrator for Metal and Nonmetal.

Leave a comment

captcha

Founded: 1978
Annual Budget: $280 million
Employees: 2.060
Official Website: http://www.msha.gov/
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Main, Joe
Assistant Secretary

A career union official and mine safety expert, Joseph A. (Joe) Main’s selection as Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health in the Department of Labor represents a dramatic turnaround for the leadership of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, which favored the coal and other mining industries during the Bush administration, even after several high-profile mine disasters killed dozens of workers. Main was confirmed by the Senate on October 21, 2009.

 
Born in Waynesburg, PA, Main graduated from the National Mine Health and Safety Academy as part of his five-decade career in the mining industry. He began working in coal mines in 1967, and it wasn’t long before he became a union safety committeeman and served in various local union positions for the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA).
 
In 1974, Main accepted a position as Special Assistant to the International President of the UMWA. Two years later he joined the union’s safety division, serving as a safety inspector, administrative assistant, and deputy director.
 
In 1982 he was appointed administrator of UMWA’s Health and Safety Department, where he would remain for the next 22 years and manage the international health and safety program and its staff.
 
After retiring from the UMWA, Main began working as a mine safety consultant. His recent work has focused on international mine safety, research and analysis projects on preventing mining accidents, and development of training programs and facilities to prepare miners and emergency responders for mine emergencies. 
 
Labor leaders were delighted by Main’s nomination to takeover the Mine Safety and Health Administration. “I don’t think Obama could have chosen anyone better for the job,” Tony Oppegard, a Lexington, KY, lawyer and mine-safety advocate, told McClatchy Newspapers. “Joe has done more for mine safety in the U.S. than anyone in the past 25 to 30 years.”
 
Oppegard added that Main’s nomination signaled a change of direction in terms of mine safety in this country. “It’s a 180 degree shift from the policies of the Bush administration and its favoring of coal industry executives.”
 
Not surprisingly, coal industry executives were not happy when they heard the news about Main. “It’s going to be frustrating having somebody with an agenda that is pro-union,” said Bill Caylor, president of the Kentucky Coal Association. “We’re not looking forward to it.”
 
Mine Safety Advocates Praise Obama's Choice to Lead Agency (by Halimah Abdullah, McClatchy Newspapers)
more
Stickler, Richard
Previous Acting Assistant Secretary

A native of West Virginia, Richard E. Stickler served as the assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health beginning in October 2006. After the Senate rejected his nomination by President Bush, Stickler was given a recess appointment which expired in December 2007. In January 2008, President Bush re-nominated Stickler, this time as acting assistant secretary.

 
Stickler received a bachelor’s of science degree in general engineering from Fairmont State University in 1968 and was certified as a mine safety professional by the International Society of Mine Safety Professionals.
 
A third-generation coal miner, Stickler worked for more than 37 years in the mining business. He began his career as an underground coal miner, then moved on to captain of a mine rescue team, first line foreman and shift foreman, working his way up the ladder to superintendent and mine manager. Stickler was director of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Deep Mine Safety from 1997 to 2003. He served as a planner and decision-maker at the command center during the Quecreek Mine rescue operation in Pennsylvania in July 2002.
 
The United Mine Workers compiled statistics showing that the injury rates at coal mines managed by Stickler between 1989 and 1996 were double the national average in six of eight years. Stickler’s leadership also was severely questioned in the wake of the Crandall Canyon mine cave-in in August 2007. During Congressional hearings that followed the disaster, MSHA was accused of carrying out a “tepid, disjointed and minimizing approach to mine safety.”
 
Another review, another list of MSHA enforcement lapses (by Ken Ward, Jr., Charleston Gazette)
Safety Agency Is Questioned on Collapse at Utah Mine (by Sarah Abruzzese, New York Times)
more
Bookmark and Share
Overview:

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is the Department of Labor’s lead agency for protecting workers in the American mining industry. With a jurisdiction covering 12,700 metal and nonmetal mines and 2,100 coal mines, MSHA is charged with enforcing safety regulations that are designed to eliminate work-related accidents and health hazards. Despite its mandate to protect mine workers, MSHA has compromised mine safety as a result of its actions during the administration of President George W. Bush, which has appointed agency leaders from the ranks of mining companies.

more
History:

Congress passed the first coal mine safety law in 1891. The legislation established minimum ventilation requirements at underground coal mines in US territories and prohibited children under 12 years of age from working in mines. The law did little to reduce the occurrence of mine accidents, which caused 2,000 deaths a year during the early 20th century.

           
In an attempt to improve working conditions in mines, lawmakers in 1910 established the Bureau of Mines as a new agency in the Department of the Interior. The bureau was charged with conducting research and reducing accidents in the coal mining industry, but was given no inspection authority until 1941, when Congress empowered federal inspectors to enter mines. In 1947, Congress authorized the formulation of the first code of federal regulations for mine safety.
 
The Federal Coal Mine Safety Act of 1952 provided for annual inspections in certain underground coal mines and gave the bureau limited enforcement authority, including the power to issue violation notices and imminent danger withdrawal orders. The act also authorized the assessment of civil penalties against mine operators for preventing federal inspectors from examining mines. In 1966, Congress extended coverage of the 1952 Coal Act to all underground coal mines.
 
The first federal legislation that regulated non-coal mines was the Federal Metal and Nonmetallic Mine Safety Act of 1966. The act helped create standards, many of which were only advisory, for inspections and investigations. However, the law had few teeth for federal regulators to enforce the law’s provisions.
 
The Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 (known as the Coal Act) was tougher than any previous federal legislation governing the mining industry. The Coal Act covered surface as well as underground coal mines, required two annual inspections of every surface coal mine and four at every underground coal mine and dramatically increased federal enforcement powers in coal mines. The Coal Act also required monetary penalties for all violations and established criminal penalties for knowing and willful violations. The safety standards for all coal mines were strengthened, and health standards were adopted. The Coal Act included specific procedures for the development of improved mandatory health and safety standards and provided compensation for miners who were totally and permanently disabled by the progressive respiratory disease caused by the inhalation of fine coal dust pneumoconiosis or “black lung.”
 
In 1973, the Secretary of the Interior created the Mining Enforcement and Safety Administration (MESA), which assumed the safety and health enforcement functions formerly carried out by the Bureau of Mines. The goal was to avoid conflicts of interest between the enforcement of mine safety and health standards and the bureau’s responsibilities for mineral resource development.
 
In 1978, Congress passed the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (Mine Act), which led to the creation of the Mine Safety and Health Administration in the Department of Labor. The Mine Act amended the 1969 Coal Act, consolidated all federal health and safety regulations of the mining industry under one authority, strengthened and expanded the rights of miners, enhanced the protection of miners from retaliation for exercising such rights, and established the independent Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission to review MSHA’s enforcement actions.
 
Mining fatalities dropped sharply under the Mine Act from 272 in 1977 to 72 in 2001. However, coal mining jumped to 47 in 2006, the most in eleven years. In 2007, the number of coal mining fatalities was 33.In January 2006, a fatal accident at the Sago mining site in West Virginia killed 12 underground coal miners by monoxide poisoning. In August 2007, Utah’s Crandall Canyon coal mine experienced a cave-in that trapped six miners who later perished. Three other miners, including an MSHA inspector, also died when they tried to rescue the trapped miners.
 
Family members, labor officials and Democrats in Congress blasted the Bush administration for failing to protect miners by appointing industry executives at MSHA (see Controversies).
 
more
What it Does:

Part of the Department of Labor, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is responsible for helping protect employees who work in mines across the United States. MSHA enforces safety regulations for mining sites, and attempts to eliminate work-related accidents and health hazards. The agency also conducts education and training designed to improve safety conditions for miners. MSHA has jurisdiction over an estimated 12,700 metal and nonmetal mines and 2,100 coal mines nationwide.

           
MSHA Key Offices
Coal Mine Safety and Health enforces the Mine Act at all coal mines, including conducting inspections that encompass four complete annual inspections of underground coal mines and two complete annual inspections of surface coal mines. This division also investigates fatal and serious nonfatal accidents, issues citations and orders for any observed violations and conducts safety and health conferences with mine operators on citations and orders that are issued. For each violation, mine operators may be required to pay fines. Additionally, Coal Mine Safety and Health approves roof control, ventilation and training plans required to be submitted by mine operators, directs various mine safety and health assistance programs and trains and certifies instructors. According to MSHA, there are about 2,100 coal mines in 27 states. The agency had 584 inspectors in 2005, down from 634 in 1997.
 
Metal and Nonmetal Safety and Health enforces the Mine Act at all metal and nonmetal mining operations in the United States. This includes conducting inspections and investigations at the mine sites to insure their compliance with health and safety standards. Inspectors and investigators issue citations when violations are discovered and order mine operators to correct problems. This division also investigates mine accidents, complaints of discrimination and hazardous conditions reported by miners, and criminal violations. They are about 12,450 metal and nonmetal operations in the United States employing more than 225,000 people.
 
Directorate of Educational Policy and Development implements MSHA’s education and training programs designed to promote safety and health in the mining industry. The directorate has three main components: the Policy and Program Coordination Division, the National Mine Health and Safety Academy in Beckley, West Virginia, and Educational Field Services. The directorate also administers the State Grants Program, which provides funding to state mining agencies to supplement their mining health and safety programs, and it sponsors the Joseph A. Holmes Safety Association.
 
Office of Assessments assesses and collects financial penalties from mine operators for violations of the Mine Act and of mine safety and health standards. These activities include accounting for all penalty cases in litigation before the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission and in federal courts and collecting and accounting for all delinquent penalties.
 
Directorate of Technical Support provides engineering and scientific expertise to assist MSHA, state governments and the mining industry in resolving safety and health issues. Technical support conducts field investigations, laboratory studies and analyses to resolve specific problems. Equipment and materials used in mines are also evaluated and approved by the directorate. Mine emergency response plans and protocols are also maintained by the directorate.
more
Where Does the Money Go:

The Mine Safety and Heath Administration has spent more than $200 million on 1,686 contractors this decade. According to USAspending.gov, MSHA paid for a variety of services, from programming to telecommunications, in support of its mission. Oddly, of the top 10 contractors MSHA paid, No. 4 on the list is the federal government, consisting of the Health Resources and Services Administration, Federal Prison Industries Inc., Veterans Health Administration, GSA Heartland Finance Center and General Services. The complete top 10 are as follows:

 
  • Envision Technology Partners                                       $18,594,153
  • Basic Contracting Services                                             $9,890,757
  • Client Network Services (CNSI)                                       $8,390.014
  • US Government                                                             $7,708,800
  • Mine Safety Appliances                                                  $7,421,086
  • Advanced Resource Technologies                                   $7,150,211
  • Wheeling Jesuit University                                              $5,859.298
  • AES Group                                                                    $4,990,753
  • Eyak Corporation                                                           $4,307,478
  • American Electric Power                                                $3,744,142
 
CNSI, a provider of IT business solutions for government and commercial enterprises, received a $33.6 million contract in 2007 from MSHA. CNSI is providing IT systems support services, including maintenance and development of software systems, e-Government systems support and helpdesk support. Also, CNSI is maintaining database, data warehouse and other IT systems, including the MSHA Standardized Information System (MSIS) which is the agency’s centralized, enterprise management information system.
more
Controversies:

Inspector General Blasts MSHA for Utah Disaster

In April 2008, the Department of Labor’s Inspector General (IG) issued a report that found MSHA negligent of protecting the safety of mine workers at Crandall Canyon in Utah, where nine workers died in August 2007. The cave-in at Randall Canyon was blamed on a mining technique known as retreat mining, a dangerous procedure that allows mining companies to extract more coal at risk of collapses. MSHA had approved the use of retreat mining by the mining company. The IG found in reviewing the agency’s records that it could not show it had made the right decision based on the information available.
Agency Faulted on Protection at Utah Mine (by Kirk Johnson, New York Times)
 
MSHA Not Collecting Fines
Following the Sago mining disaster in January 2006, media scrutiny of MSHA led to examinations of the agency’s work, particularly in the area of regulating mining company activities. The New York Times reported that the agency had decreased major fines for safety violations since 2001 and that in many cases MSHA had not collected fines at all.
 
Furthermore, MSHA had not turned over any delinquent cases to the Treasury Department for further collection efforts, as it is supposed to do after 180 days. An MSHA official blamed the failure on computer problems that had not been fixed in three years.
 
The Times found that the number of major fines issued in 2004 at the maximum level was one in 10, down from one in 5 in 2003.
Mine fines routinely ignored (by Ken Ward, Jr., Charleston Gazette)
U.S. Is Reducing Safety Penalties for Mine Flaws (by Ian Urbina and Andrew W. Lehren, New York Times)
 
MSHA Leader Helps Industry
In November 2004, President Bush’s first head of MSHA, Dave Lauriski, a former mining company executive, stepped down after three years of questionable decision-making. Lauriski tried unsuccessfully to weaken federal regulations governing coal dust levels in mines. The change would have helped Lauriski’s former company, Energy West Mining Company of Utah, which led other mining companies to oppose the plan.
           
Under Lauriski, MSHA rescinded more than half a dozen proposals intended to make coal miners’ jobs safer, including steps to limit their exposure to toxic chemicals. One rule pushed by the agency made it easier for companies to use diesel generators underground, which miners said could increase the risk of fire.
           
Shortly before Lauriski resigned, the Labor Department’s Inspector General issued a report that revealed MSHA had improperly awarded no-bid, single-source contracts to companies. Two of those companies had ties to Lauriski and one of his assistants.
MSHA and the Sago Mine Disaster (by Scott Lilly, Center for American Progress)
 
MSHA Kills Investigation of Mining Pollution
In 2004, 60 Minutes reported that the Mine Safety and Health Administration had cut short an investigation of Massey Energy, which was responsible for allowing 300 million gallons of coal slurry to flood 100 miles of stream in Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia. The environmental disaster was described as being 25 times the size of the Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska.
 
A team of MSHA investigators were told to end their investigation before the agency could level fines against the company. In addition, an agency official was fired after he blew the whistle on the squashed investigation.
A Toxic Cover-Up (CBS 60 Minutes) (PDF)
more
Former Directors:

Dave D. Lauriski 2001 to 2004

 
J. Davitt McAteer 1994 to 2000 Solicitor of Safety for UMWA 1972+
 
William J. Tattersall 1989 to 1993 Bethlehem Steel attorney and energy lobbyist
 
David C. O’Neal 1988 to 1989 Deputy Director of Bureau of Land Management 1985-1988
 
David A. Zegeer 1983 to 1987 retired as manager of Beth-Elkhorn Corp. in 1977 after 30 years, mostly with Bethlehem Steel
 
Ford B. Ford 1981 to 1983 vice president of the California Institute for Industrial and Governmental Relations; told to curtail MSHA power
 
Robert B. Lagather 1978 to 1981 Worked for 11 years (1951-1962) for UMWA Welfare and Retirement Fund; joined Department of Labor in 1962
more

Comments

Robert Parker 5 months ago
How do I find out about my retirement fund. I was in an auto accident on my way to work in 1993 that disabled me. I worked underground for 19 years plus one year medical leave after my accident. Now I'm trying to collect my Coal Miners pension and I haven't been able to contact the company (Costain Coal) I worked for to find out to receive my pension. I contacted Dept. Of Labor and they could not help. Who can help me? In need of dire help.
Art Ellis 3 years ago
The Obama administration has followed suite with the Bush administration by appointing Neal Merrifield, a mining company executive to the position of Administrator for Metal and Nonmetal.

Leave a comment

captcha

Founded: 1978
Annual Budget: $280 million
Employees: 2.060
Official Website: http://www.msha.gov/
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Main, Joe
Assistant Secretary

A career union official and mine safety expert, Joseph A. (Joe) Main’s selection as Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health in the Department of Labor represents a dramatic turnaround for the leadership of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, which favored the coal and other mining industries during the Bush administration, even after several high-profile mine disasters killed dozens of workers. Main was confirmed by the Senate on October 21, 2009.

 
Born in Waynesburg, PA, Main graduated from the National Mine Health and Safety Academy as part of his five-decade career in the mining industry. He began working in coal mines in 1967, and it wasn’t long before he became a union safety committeeman and served in various local union positions for the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA).
 
In 1974, Main accepted a position as Special Assistant to the International President of the UMWA. Two years later he joined the union’s safety division, serving as a safety inspector, administrative assistant, and deputy director.
 
In 1982 he was appointed administrator of UMWA’s Health and Safety Department, where he would remain for the next 22 years and manage the international health and safety program and its staff.
 
After retiring from the UMWA, Main began working as a mine safety consultant. His recent work has focused on international mine safety, research and analysis projects on preventing mining accidents, and development of training programs and facilities to prepare miners and emergency responders for mine emergencies. 
 
Labor leaders were delighted by Main’s nomination to takeover the Mine Safety and Health Administration. “I don’t think Obama could have chosen anyone better for the job,” Tony Oppegard, a Lexington, KY, lawyer and mine-safety advocate, told McClatchy Newspapers. “Joe has done more for mine safety in the U.S. than anyone in the past 25 to 30 years.”
 
Oppegard added that Main’s nomination signaled a change of direction in terms of mine safety in this country. “It’s a 180 degree shift from the policies of the Bush administration and its favoring of coal industry executives.”
 
Not surprisingly, coal industry executives were not happy when they heard the news about Main. “It’s going to be frustrating having somebody with an agenda that is pro-union,” said Bill Caylor, president of the Kentucky Coal Association. “We’re not looking forward to it.”
 
Mine Safety Advocates Praise Obama's Choice to Lead Agency (by Halimah Abdullah, McClatchy Newspapers)
more
Stickler, Richard
Previous Acting Assistant Secretary

A native of West Virginia, Richard E. Stickler served as the assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health beginning in October 2006. After the Senate rejected his nomination by President Bush, Stickler was given a recess appointment which expired in December 2007. In January 2008, President Bush re-nominated Stickler, this time as acting assistant secretary.

 
Stickler received a bachelor’s of science degree in general engineering from Fairmont State University in 1968 and was certified as a mine safety professional by the International Society of Mine Safety Professionals.
 
A third-generation coal miner, Stickler worked for more than 37 years in the mining business. He began his career as an underground coal miner, then moved on to captain of a mine rescue team, first line foreman and shift foreman, working his way up the ladder to superintendent and mine manager. Stickler was director of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Deep Mine Safety from 1997 to 2003. He served as a planner and decision-maker at the command center during the Quecreek Mine rescue operation in Pennsylvania in July 2002.
 
The United Mine Workers compiled statistics showing that the injury rates at coal mines managed by Stickler between 1989 and 1996 were double the national average in six of eight years. Stickler’s leadership also was severely questioned in the wake of the Crandall Canyon mine cave-in in August 2007. During Congressional hearings that followed the disaster, MSHA was accused of carrying out a “tepid, disjointed and minimizing approach to mine safety.”
 
Another review, another list of MSHA enforcement lapses (by Ken Ward, Jr., Charleston Gazette)
Safety Agency Is Questioned on Collapse at Utah Mine (by Sarah Abruzzese, New York Times)
more