Change of Address
I'll see how it goes.
Safety and health of miners and mining communities. Mines includes coal mines, metal mines, nonmetallic mineral mines, stone quarries, and sand and gravel operations.
MSHA was negligent in carrying out its responsibilities to protect the safety of miners. Specifically, MSHA could not show that it made the right decision in approving the Crandall Canyon Mine roof control plan or that the process was free from undue influence by the mine operator...Further, MSHA did not ensure that subsequent inspections assessed compliance with, and the effectiveness of, approved plans...
MSHA...lacked guidance on appropriate non-rescue activities.
The Inspector General’s report highlights the fact that miners performing retreat mining in this country remain at serious risk because of MSHA’s deeply flawed process for reviewing and approving retreat mining plans. In January, the House of Representatives passed legislation to require that MSHA strengthen its procedures for reviewing and approving retreat mining plans. The legislation also requires MSHA to observe retreat mining operations once they are in place to ensure they are being performed in accordance with the plans and that miners are properly trained. The Inspector General’s report shows why this legislation is so urgently needed, and I strongly urge the Senate to pass it.
And many of the administration’s picks of leaders to run safety agencies have been executives from affected industries...
One example is the administration’s most recent pick to run the Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration: Richard Stickler, a former coal company executive. His nomination was opposed by many members of Congress, who criticized Stickler’s ties to the industry and the poor safety record at the mines he managed. Many of those mines had accident rates above the national average....
... Put the money in preventing the violations in the first place....All these violations can be prevented, and most of it is a matter of resources. It costs money. And you can wait until MSHA comes and wrotes a violation because you have combustible materials on a conveyor belt, then you clean it up and pay, I think our average fine last year was about $700 a fine, or you can go out and hire enough peple to keep the combustible materials cleaned up. You put on better belt wipers. Keep the belt aligned so it doesn't spill.
may be confused.
At this point, according to a review by Politico.com, the election commission, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board and the National Labor Relations Board do not have enough members to do their jobs...
Politics freezes regulatory boards
By: Ryan Grim
Feb 28, 2008 05:12 AM EST
The system of federal regulation first launched in 1883 with the Interstate Commerce Commission has become a casualty of the Pennsylvania Avenue battle over nominations....
...The Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission’s two remaining members leave it one short of a quorum. Close to 200 nominees for federal appointments stand unconfirmed....
The federal government is running on fumes, and roadside signs suggest the next gas station won’t come until January 2009.....
I am pleased we were able to reach an agreement to confirm nominees early this morning. Democrats were confirmed to important posts such as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, and AMTRAK, among others....
Executive Nominations Confirmed by the Senate: Thursday, March 13, 2008
...Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission
Michael F. Duffy, to be a Member of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission through August 30, 2012...
...Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission
Robert F. Cohen, to be a Member of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission through August 30, 2012...
Unhappily for the country, we have learned that Mr. Bush has no idea when standing on principle becomes blind stubbornness and then destructive obsession. So it goes with his choice to run the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, Steven Bradbury.
In a lower job in that office, Mr. Bradbury signed off on two secret legal memos authorizing torture in American detention camps. The first approved waterboarding, among other things. When Congress outlawed waterboarding, the other memo assured Mr. Bush that he could ignore the law.
Mr. Bradbury is widely viewed on both sides of the aisle as such a toxic choice that he will never be confirmed. The Senate has already refused to do so twice. Still, Mr. Bush clings to this lost cause, snarling the confirmation process for hundreds of nominees and crippling parts of the federal regulatory apparatus....
...When Mr. Bush refused to withdraw the Bradbury nomination, the Senate’s Democratic leaders decided to stop processing other controversial nominations...
The company said it had to close the Tower mine because of "recently encountered, unexpected and unusual stress conditions"...
P. Bruce Hill, UtahAmerican's president and chief executive officer, said the safety of the mine's employees was at stake, given unforeseen geological and mining conditions...
"Safety is our only initial concern, and we do not believe that the Tower Mine can be operated at this time," Hill said, adding that "unforeseen changes in requirements by the [federal] Mine Safety and Health Administration also have contributed to the forced closure of the mine."
MSHA's Amy Louviere said in an e-mail that "we cannot speculate as to what 'unforeseen changes' UtahAmerican references in its press release."
James Kohler, chief of the solid minerals branch for the Utah Bureau of Land Management, said the company has yet to submit an application to BLM to close the mine, as it is required to do.
The company wanted to relocate a longwall mining machine inside Tower but found the conditions unsafe....
The Murray Energy Corp. subsidiary closed the mine for several weeks last summer as engineers tested its ability to withstand seismic shocks that plagued the company's Crandall Canyon mine near Huntington, Utah, where nine people died in two cave-ins.
The Tower mine, seven miles north of Price, Utah, reopened in late January.
The company's statement didn't specify whether the Tower mine, previously known as the Aberdeen mine, was being permanently shut down. It was also unclear how many people work at the mine
Most of the employees will be transferred to UtahAmerican's nearby West Ridge Mine, which is being expanded, [Hill] said.
A Massey Energy worker was killed Thursday when he tried to help free a trailer that was stuck on a steep railroad crossing in Logan County, officials said....
Amy Louviere, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, said MSHA does not have jurisdiction because the accident didn't occur on mine company property.
C.A. Phillips, deputy director for the state Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training, said his agency would not investigate for the same reason.
Warren Flatau, a spokesman for the Federal Railroad Administration, said his agency would probably not investigate either.
The FRA investigates only a small number of railroad grade crossing accidents per year, Flatau said. The agency would send someone later to look at the crossing and see if steps could be taken to make it safer, he said.
MSHA's Louviere said the victim was employed at Massey company Highland Mining's nearby Freeze Fork Surface Mine.
The FRA warns truck drivers that vehicles with low clearances can easily get stuck on "humpbacked" railroad crossings. The agency says a train and a stuck low-clearance trailer collide on average once every two weeks nationwide.Details:
The accident occurred at a steep, or "humpbacked," railroad crossing along W.Va. 17 near Stollings, authorities said.
A truck was crossing the tracks pulling a "low boy" trailer when the trailer became stuck on the crossing.
The victim, an employee of Massey's Mass Transport subsidiary, was attempting to free the trailer when he was struck by a piece of metal, said Massey spokesman Jeff Gillenwater.
"It was saddle-bagged on the railroad tracks," said Logan County Sheriff Eddie Hunter. "They attempted to jack it up and something flew out and hit the gentleman."
Kevin Stricklin, administrator over MSHA's coal division, said the investigative team headed by Richard Gates has conducted all of its interviews, reviewed thousands of documents and currently is writing a draft report at an MSHA facility in Tridelphia, W.Va.If history is any guide, the agency will need longer than estimated to complete the report, but officials will be under tremendous pressure to get the report out ahead of the anniversary date of August 6 if at all possible. This will allow the agency to take charge of the story lead at that time and defuse criticism before a spate of "anniversary" stories hits.
He was hesitant to speculate on a more precise completion date, noting that Crandall Canyon mine operator Murray Energy Corp. and its Utah subsidiaries are still submitting information to investigators.
"It's our responsibility to go through every page," said Stricklin of the need for a thorough probe of the mining disaster....
Last week, MSHA fined Murray Energy $420,000 for two flagrant violations of safety regulations at the Tower mine, contending the company repeatedly allowed buildups of potentially explosive coal dust there.
Stricklin said MSHA has issued 50 flagrant violation orders, seeking fines totaling $7.1 million, since the repeat-offense citation was created as part of the 2006 Mine Emergency and Response Act (MINER), enacted after three Eastern disasters early that year. ....
The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration has a powerful weapon.... One that hits mining companies where it hurts... But a weapon is only useful as a deterrent if there is reason to believe it will actually be fired....MSHA pulled the trigger Thursday - twice - blasting Murray Energy subsidiary Andalex Resources Inc. with a pair of fines totalling $420,300... Murray managers, it seems, got what they were asking for... And the rest of the industry should pay heed. The much-maligned MSHA appears to be locked and loaded and ready and willing to pull the trigger.Whooooeee, mining industry. Clint Eastwood is headed your way.
Letcher County miner Scott Howard filed his suit Thursday in U.S. District Court in eastern Kentucky.
Howard wants Judge Karen K. Caldwell to force the Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration to issue a tougher limit governing coal miners' exposure to respirable coal dust.
MSHA, Howard says in his lawsuit, has a "plain legal duty to promulgate a respirable dust regulation that will eliminate respiratory illnesses caused by work in coal mines."
The suit asks that MSHA be ordered to issue the tougher dust limit as an emergency temporary standard, a move allowed only if MSHA believes miners are at "grave danger from exposure to substances or agents determined to be toxic or physically harmful"...
Howard is represented by Stephen A. Sanders, a lawyer with the Appalachian Citizens Law Center in Whitesburg, Ky., and by Nathan Fetty, a lawyer with the Mine Safety Project of the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment.
about $4.1 million in 2007 to lobby the government on mine safety and coal technology, among other issues...Nice work if you can get it.
The National Mining Association spent $2.4 million in the second half of the year lobbying the federal government on its own behalf, according to a disclosure form posted online Feb. 13 by the Senate's public records office....The trade group -- whose more than 325 member companies include Arch Coal Inc., Foundation Coal Holdings Inc. and Terex Corp. -- spent $1.7 million in the first six months of 2007 to lobby on largely similar matters...
Lobbyists are required to disclose activities that could influence members of the executive and legislative branches, under a federal law enacted in 1995.
SINGER KATHY MATTEA grew up in West Virginia; both of her grandfathers were coal miners and her mother worked for the United Mine Workers. After 12 miners died in the Sago mine explosion in 2006, she resolved to make an album of the coal-mining songs she had been stockpiling for years. "Coal" combines the mountain string-band sound of her roots with the studio polish of her Nashville stardom far better than might be expected.On the other hand, if you're one of those folks with the NMA, you might not.
The album climaxes with Mattea's take on Hazel Dickens's classic protest song, "Black Lung"... Mattea's song choices are astute: You can't beat...Merle Travis's "Dark as a Dungeon" or Darrell Scott's "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive."Does anybody out there know any songs about how great it is to be a miner, or even a mine operator? Or maybe a lobbyist?
Kentucky mine safety officials have issued multiple citations in the death of a young miner who backed his rock truck over a highwall at a Letcher County strip mine.
...Sturgill...had worked at the Blue Ridge Mine in Ovenfork for less than three week...backed his Caterpillar rock truck over a dumping point at 12:45 a.m.
...There are no monetary fines for citations issued by the state on strip mines....
Adequate ground support was not installed and maintained in the area to control the ground. The mine operator had knowledge of the unstable ground conditions in the area where the accident occurred. Failure to install and maintain adequate ground support to protect miners from ground fall hazards constitutes more than ordinary negligence and is an unwarrantable failure to comply with a mandatory standard.
The fines...include $38,500 for not keeping workers safe while removing loose rock from the underground mine's ceiling and $44,600 for not properly supporting the mine's roof.
WVU [West Virginia University] says the study found hospitalization rates rise with coal production and that coal pollution may kill 313 West Virginians a year.
“Residents of coal-mining communities have long complained of impaired health,” Michael Hendryx, Ph.D., associate director of the WVU Institute for Health Policy Research in WVU’s Community Medicine department, said. “This study substantiates their claims. Those residents are at an increased risk of developing chronic heart, lung and kidney diseases....
"We’ve considered that chronic illness might be prevalent in these areas because rural West Virginians have less access to health care, higher smoking rates and poorer economic conditions,” Hendryx said. “We’ve adjusted our data to include those factors, and still found disease rates higher in coal-mining communities.”
...Their next steps are to directly measure air and water quality in coal-mining communities.
SHIJIAZHUANG, March 25 (Xinhua) -- Nine coal mine managers were sentenced to between two and six years in jail for a coal mine blast that killed 108 miners and injured 29 others in north China's Hebei Province...Shang Zhiguo, head of the Liuguantun colliery, was sentenced to six years in jail...The deputy head Li Qixin, who was also in charge of production safety, was jailed for five years...
The coal mine investor Zhu Wenyou and head of the mine safeguard department Lv Xuezeng were jailed for three years each. The mine ventilation department chief Liu Wencheng was jailed for fours years. Another four managers were sentenced to between two and four years in jail...
The gas blast was a serious accident caused by the illegal operation of the mine, Li Yizhong, former director of the State Administration of Work Safety, had said.
The coal mine was still under construction and did not have a production licence...the original design of the coal mine had been changed without approval... The coal mine, formerly state-owned and with a designed annual production capacity of 300,000 tons, was privatized in 2002.
ZHENGZHOU, March 27 (Xinhua) -- Two rescue operations in Chinese collieries to save a total of 10 miners trapped underground after separate accidents left a total of 10 dead.
Nine died in the first accident in a gas outburst in central China's Hunan Province at about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday... Three workers managed to escape from the blast, which brought about 100 tons of coal down from the coal bed.
Four teams of rescuers were on rotation in the rescue operation, but tunnels were blocked by rubble that hindered the search.
The mine's operating permit and production license expired early last year, and it was not approved for operation, either, said Peng Youming, vice director of Chenzhou City Coal Mine Safety Bureau.
The gas monitoring system had not been in use due to a breakdown before the accident, Peng said. The colliery was privately owned and being merged with other mines under the local government's plan to reform the mining industry.
Another miner is dead and five are trapped below ground after a coal pit collapsed on Wednesday in central China's Henan Province....
Rescuers found two injured people, one of whom died later in hospital. Police are seeking the owner of the privately owned coal mine, Qin said....
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Senate subcommittee probing this summer's deadly Utah mine disaster has subpoenaed the mine's co-owner, ranking member Sen. Arlen Specter said Friday.
The subpoena for Bob Murray -- CEO and president of Murray Energy Group -- directs him to appear before the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services on December 4....
"We're going to get to the bottom of what went on there," said Specter, R-Pennsylvania.
"Murray is an indispensable witness, and, candidly, he really flouted the authority and responsibility of the United States Senate to have his testimony to find out what happened so we could do our utmost to prevent future occurrences."...
Report Faults Mine Safety
By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 17, 2007; Page A08
U.S. mine safety regulators failed to conduct inspections required by federal law at more than one in seven of the country's 731 underground coal mines last year, a year in which the number of worker deaths in mining accidents more than doubled to 47, a government report says.
Budget constraints and a lack of management emphasis on worker safety by the Bush administration are responsible for the lapses, the Labor Department inspector general said in a report released yesterday....
The findings are likely to fuel a partisan battle heading into next year's presidential elections, as Democrats in Congress, mine worker unions and safety advocates clash with the administration and mining companies over whether the Labor Department has struck a proper balance between investigating unions and worker safety, and in seeking voluntary compliance from mine companies with regulations instead of assessing fines....
The report also found that MSHA officials misdated records of the most recent inspections at the Crandall Canyon mine. In one case, an MSHA field supervisor dated his approval of the mine's roof-control plan in February, four months before the May 30 start of the inspection....
...David James, a spokesman for Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao, said the department disagrees with several elements of the report. Department officials look forward, he said, to the conclusions of an independent panel, appointed by Chao to investigate MSHA's performance during the Crandall Canyon disaster.
...Richard E. Stickler, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health, said 70 percent of the uncompleted inspections were at mines that were "non-producing, inactive, intermittent or abandoned" during the inspection period.
..."Valuable and limited enforcement time by our inspectors should be placed primarily on identifying and abating hazards as a result of inspections rather than documentation and paperwork," he wrote.
...The inspector general's office found that the MSHA missed 147 inspections at 107 mines employing a total of 7,500 workers.
The report found that inspection resources were strained by a cut in inspectors and an increase in mining operations and accidents that had to be investigated. There was also less money for non-personnel costs and additional agency requirements, the report says.
The number of MSHA coal mine inspectors fell 18 percent between 2002 and 2006, from 605 to 496, while mining activity increased 9 percent nationally. Funding for the coal safety and health agency increased 1 percent over that period, to $117 million, but that was not enough to offset cost-of-living salary increases for its personnel, which grew $6.1 million.
The MSHA has hired 270 inspector trainees since July 2006, launched a plan last month to reassign inspectors and boost overtime, and asked for money to add 244 workers next year.
Auditors also said that MSHA officials misstated inspection statistics in reports and on the agency's Web site, partly because "management did not place adequate emphasis on ensuring the inspections were completed and the reported completion rate was accurate."
Staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.
November 16, 2007
MSHA count called ‘inconsistent’
Labor report questions mine fatality procedures
By Ken Ward Jr.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s procedures for counting mining deaths are inconsistent and don’t follow the agency’s own written rules, according to a new audit report from the department’s Inspector General.
Investigators did not find instances where the departments’ Mine Safety and Health Administration decisions were “clearly contradicted by available evidence.”
But the report identified instances of non-compliance with MSHA policies and “control and procedural weaknesses that increased the risk that such errors could occur.”
“We found that investigators and decision makers lacked independence, investigative procedures were inconsistent, and investigative documentation was sometimes lacking,” the IG said in a report issued Thursday....
Starting in late 2003, the United Mine Workers began complaining that MSHA was not counting certain types of accidents that had previously been deemed chargeable. They cited examples: truck drivers, security guards, and loggers who cut trees in advance of strip mining.
In February, after looking into the matter, MSHA chief Richard Stickler issued a new policy that critics say tightens the definition of a mining death.
But the issue has remained controversial. Just last week MSHA agreed to designate as chargeable the November 2005 death of a coal trucker at Mettiki Coal in Grant County. MSHA did so after a Charleston Gazette article detailing the circumstances of trucker Chad Cook’s death....
The IG recommended that MSHA, among other things, add an independent member to its fatality review committee, implement standard investigative protocols for all death investigations, and create a quality assurance program for documentation of investigative information.
BECKLEY, W.Va. — Enacting a new federal law is no solution to safety concerns in the coal industry since there is ample legislation in force to get the task done — if the Mine Safety and Health Administration would only do it, West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller says...
In response to last year’s tragedy that left a dozen underground coal miners dead at the Sago Mine, Congress passed the MINER Act, calling for increased safety measures, but since then, the United Mine Workers of America has complained that MSHA has been lax in enforcing it.
Of chief concern with the UMWA has been the spotty record of conducting mandatory inspections.
“I don’t need a federal law to tell me to do my best every day,” Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said. “I just don’t.”
With inspections held in limbo at some installations, are some coal companies exploiting the situation?
Bristling at the question, Rockefeller said, “That’s a provocative question.”
“I don’t think that coal in this state has always taken every single advantage they could have, every possible thing they could do on their own,” he said....
Rockefeller said he has had “a very low regard” for MSHA under the Bush administration, and criticized director Richard Strickler as “an anathema to me.”
“I’m not sure that what you do is try to pass another bill, add some more things on,” the senator said. “First of all, it’s going to get vetoed.”
Secondly, mine issues appeal to a much narrower audience since coal is produced in only 16 states, unlike the State Children’s Health Insurance Program which is in force across the entire country, he noted.
“MSHA is meant to do rules and regulations and meant to have inspections all over the place,” he said.
Rockefeller suggested its failure to carry out its mission could lie in the daily $2 billion outlay to keep the war going in Iraq, combined with $3 trillion in tax cuts — “virtually all of which I voted against, except the earned income tax credits and things of this sort.” Those have just “wrecked this country,” he said....
Search for missing Crandall Canyon miners halted
By Christopher Smart and Donald W. Meyers
The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 08/31/2007 08:53:06 PM MDT
Colin King, attorney for the miners' families, said this evening the officials with the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration told the families that the search was "done, it's finished," and there are no plans to resume it.
The MSHA representatives, whom King did not identify, also told the families during a briefing at the Desert Edge Christian Church that the miners - missing since a horrific collapse on Aug. 6 - are considered to be dead.