Sunday, January 22, 2006

Some boring shite about mines.......

A brief note to fans of small government, Bush-style. New Orleans was no fluke.

Bill Clinton’s director of mine safety was a guy named J. Davitt McAteer. The director of mine safety heads the Mine Safety and Health Administration and is an Assistant Secretary of Labor.
UVW Alumni News:

McAteer's involvement with mine safety and health issues began in law school, when he developed and directed a study of the West Virginia coal industry. The findings of this study, published as Coal Mine Health and Safety: The Case of West Virginia, led directly to the nation's first comprehensive general coal mine health and safety act in 1969 and indirectly to the election of reform candidates to lead the United Mine Workers of America in 1972.

Following law school, McAteer developed the mine safety program for Ralph Nader's Center for the Study of Responsive Law and worked to improve conditions in U.S. mines and monitor the enforcement of federal law.
When a reform movement won control of the United Mine Workers of America in 1972, he became solicitor of safety for the union where he helped revitalize the union's safety and health program and improved the training of rank-and-file safety inspectors.

McAteer joined the Center for Law and Social Policy in Washington, D.C., in 1976 and was instrumental in developing a broadened mine health and safety law and a new federal strip mining control law.
In 1984, he founded the Occupational Safety and Health Law Center (OSHLC), a public interest law firm based in Shepherdstown that engages in education, training and policy analysis of issues involving workplace safety and health.

He has authored numerous articles and publications. More than 25,000 copies of his comprehensive legal and practical guide for rank-and-file miners, Miner's Manual: A Complete Guide to Health and Safety Protection on the Job, have been sold and distributed. He has also published similar manuals for the textile and chemical industries. In addition, he produced and directed an award-winning video, Monongah 1907, chronicling the history of mine safety and health in the United States.

McAteer has been a visiting lecturer at the West Virginia University College of Law and at the University of Hawaii. He has also served on a number of advisory boards and research bodies, including the Secretary of the Interior's Advisory Committee on Coal Mine Safety Research, the National Science Foundation's study of coal refuse banks and the National Council for the Public Assessment of Technology.

Impressive, huh? Bush fired him the day he took office. He then installed David Lauriski, former president of a mining company from Utah.

Under Lauriski budgets for mine inspections and enforcement were gutted. His chief contribution was to change the name of ‘’Mine Inspector’’ to “Compliance Assistance Specialist.” Referrals from “Specialists” about safety violations in mines dropped 70% from the Clinton years….possibly because Lauriski ditched 70% of the regulations and improvements brought in by McAteer.

Even at this reduced level of citations, you should know that citations are like speeding tickets: a major safety violation typically gets a $60 fine…as much as $400 for something really bad….in a billion dollar industry.

The Bushies consistently have shitcanned a bill that would increase these fines, six years in a row. Last week, after the deaths, they brought it out of legislative limbo, and tried to pretend it was their idea all along! They actually used the fact that the fine levels were created in the Carter Administration to blame Democrats for the disasters! The Mine Safety and Health Administration wasn't even created until Jimmy C, in 1978.

Anyway, in November 2004 Mr. Lauriski left his job after a Labor Department report found that while he was in charge, the agency had awarded questionable contracts to companies with ties to him or his associates. His term in office was also marked by disputes over an investigation into a major environmental disaster, as well as his attempts to change dust regulations in a way that would have directly benefited his former employer. Oh, and his new employer? A mining company. But you knew that.

My favorite discovery was a letter from the Society of Safety Engineers, pleading with Lauriski to work with them to lower the death rate in the mines…..directly after the famous Quecreek accident in Pennsylvania in 2002. Lauriski ignored them.

Since Lauriski, the agency has been run by an acting administrator, David G. Dye….. a political hack from Alaska with no absolutely background in mine safety, or even mines. He can, of course, always ask advice from his deputies, all of whom have also come directly from the industry over the past five years.

Final word: Governor Joe Manchin of West Virginia just appointed Davitt McAteer to head up an investigation of the two recent fatal accidents and to advise on new state regulations for health and safety in the mining the face of the total failure of the federal government.

SurveyUSA just ranked Manchin as the most popular governor in the country, with an 80% approval rating.

Oh……Joe is a Democrat. Stay tuned.


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