Whitesburg KY

MSHA’s problems were easy to predict

Rather than the sound enforcement the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration brags about, MSHA’s own internal review has found shocking lapses in the performance of inspectors, wrong signals from some who review citations and an obvious need for major change.

The review produced a stunning 153 recommendations for improvement. Some information already has been forwarded for possible disciplinary action or further inquiry.

How this squares with MSHA chief Richard Stickler’s regular defense of his agency, and the Labor Department’s self-protective public relations effort, is unclear.

In any case, Mr. Stickler now is “deeply disturbed” by lapses at three Kentucky and West Virginia mines where 19 died. He wants a new MSHA accountability office.

Somebody tell Jack Spadaro, who was pushed out of MSHA for calling the agency’s probe of the Martin County coal slurry spill corrupt and lawless – a whitewash of the worst environmental disaster in the history of the eastern United States, which poured some 300 million gallons of goop into Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia watersheds.

MSHA’s obvious inadequacies mock the laughable claim by coal mogul Robert Murray that a tougher new system of fines is “outrageous.” Mr. Murray also charged that the Democratic Party wants to put the coal industry out of business.

This is the same Bob Murray whose political action committee gave 96 percent of its $648,000 in contributions over three years to Republicans.

And who, in warning MSHA to loosen up on his violationloaded mine, told agency officials, “Mitch McConnell calls me one of the five finest men in America, and the last time I checked he was sleeping with your boss” (a reference to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, the Kentucky senator’s wife, who is responsible for federal mine safety efforts).

When the Bush administration embraced “compliance assistance” instead of real enforcement, all of this was predictable.

– The Courier-Journal, Louisville

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