Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Dark as a dungeon, way down in the mine

Jordan at Confined Space brings us the latest in the Bush appointee least-qualified sweepstakes: Richard Stickler, nominee for Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).

The only thing Stickler is a stickler for is mine company profits. When he was appointed to Pennsylvania's Bureau of Deep Mine Safety in 1997, the United Mine Workers of America's Safety Director, Joe Main, wrote a distressed letter to then Governor Tom "Color Code" Ridge detailing Stickler's sorry record as a mine manager for Bethlehem Steel.
Stickler was manager of the company’s Cambria Slope Mine No. 33 near Ebensburg, Pa., from 1989 to mid-1994. He was manager of Bethlehem’s Eagle’s Nest Mine near Van, Boone County, from 1994 through 1996.

Main wrote that the Cambria mine “had a deplorable health and safety record (one of the worst in Pennsylvania) during the time that Stickler managed the mine.”

While Stickler was mine manager at Eagle’s Nest, Main wrote, federal officials targeted the mine for the most serious enforcement action allowed under the nation’s mine safety laws.

He wrote that the two mines had injury and accident rates that were double the national average in six of the eight years that the union reviewed.

Also, Main wrote, both operations were cited for hundreds of mine safety violations in each of the years that Stickler managed them.

He said the figures indicate “a very poor compliance record.”

“These figures would rank Stickler’s operations among the highest cited in the country,” Main wrote. “Collectively over the eight-year period, the federal government issued nearly 3,000 citations and closure orders at mines that Mr. Stickler managed.”

“I found this information on Mr. Stickler’s background very alarming,” Main wrote. “Not only has Stickler’s focus been solely on productivity and cost, but it appears that management at his mines allowed miners to be placed at a very high risk while he worked toward his focused goals.

“How could such a person with this clear pattern of high violations and high accidents even be considered for such an important health and safety position?
Just to be clear. This is Bush's appointment for the man to be in charge of mine safety for the United States. Think about it.