Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Charleston Gazette reports lead to changes in coal-mine inspections

In the latest example of why he is probably the best coal reporter at a U.S. newspaper, Ken Ward Jr. (left) of The Charleston Gazette writes that federal mine inspectors are behind schedule at more than 60 percent of southern West Virginia's mines, and that federal Mine Safety and Health Administration officials had "deliberately stopped some of the required inspections in the face of budget and staffing shortages." The report comes on the heels of other Ward articles that showed MSHA had missed regular inspections at mines in Logan and Mingo counties where workers were killed earlier this month. In response, Richard Stickler, assistant labor secretary for MSHA, ended the practice of using "spot inspections" instead of the full quarterly inspections.

Ward reports that while agency officials said MSHA was behind schedule in about a third of southern West Virginia mines, a review of agency data shows "inspectors are behind schedule in completing regular quarterly inspections for at least 74 of the district’s 122 underground coal mines currently listed as active." J. Davitt McAteer, who ran MSHA during the Clinton administration, told Ward, “That’s an amazing number. It is just astounding that they would let this happen.” Ward goes on to report on his review of extensive agency data of safety inspections for the past few decades, and his findings raise important questions about the decisions of MSHA in the last few years. After the two recent deaths in southern West Virginia alone, and the Crandall Canyon tragedy of August, these demand attention. (Read more)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's sad that Stickler allegedly didn't even know about the "enhanced spot inspection" program... If a newspaper reporter can determine - from statistics posted on MSHA's own website - that the agency is far behind in its federally-mandated complete (AAA) inspections, why wasn't Stickler aware? And why hasn't he gone to Congress to ask for more money to hire the needed inspectors? MSHA will continue to be a morass until a Democratic president puts a strong safety advocate in charge of the agency... It will never happen under a Republican president...