Long-time readers of Wheeling papers, knew this was predictable. This past weekend a former coal company president was nominated to head the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Yesterday we read the glowing article about his nomination; today we read an enthusiastic editorial endorsement in the afternoon News-Register devoid of any possible reason for the rejection of his nomination. For instance, the editorial* argues with no evidence:
Zatezalo has a record of concern for safety in the mines, as well as for making operations he has overseen successful.
Aren't the "pattern of violations" letters from the Mine Safety and Health Administration that I noted in yesterday's post a part of his "record of concern for safety"? What about the federal court injunctions against his company for warning workers of impending MSHA inspections?
Of course, neither yesterday's Intelligencer article on the Zatezalo nomination or today's editorial documents his record on mine safety. Here's more from the Ken Ward Jr. article in the Gazette-Mail:
Between those two warning letters, crew leader Joseph Cassell was killed at the Eagle No. 1 Mine when rock and coal from a portion of a mine wall collapsed onto him in June 2011. MSHA investigators concluded that Rhino’s efforts to control the mine walls with timbers and conventional bolts were inadequate, something that conditions at the mine had “put the operator on notice” about. Rhino was cited and paid $44,500 in fines to MSHA, records show.
That's quite a safety record. Additionally, the editorial tells us:
Senators should vote for Zatezalo because he is a veteran of the industry, not a career bureaucrat.
Here, from Think Progress is a description of the man who was his predecessor in the Obama administration:
Joseph Main, who headed MSHA under President Barack Obama, had a long history in mine safety issues prior to his confirmation. Main worked as a mine safety consultant and served on federal advisory committees, joint labor-management committees, and mining industry partnerships. He also served as administrator of the UMWA Occupational Health and Safety Department, a position he held for 22 years, managing the international health and safety program and staff.
The job is about ensuring that the mines are safe. Sorry, I'll take the career bureaucrat from the UMWA over the coal owner with the "patterns of violations" every time. Once again on the issue of mine safety, the Wheeling "newspapers" demonstrate whose side they're on.
*Note -- no link to editorial. As is often the case with the afternoon editorials, they are not posted on the Ogden website.
Update -- September 6 -- Gazette-Mail's Ward questions Zatezalo about safety issues
This morning's Charleston Gazette-Mail features a Ken Ward Jr. follow-up story to his original story in Sunday's G-M. Ward summarizes his earlier story with material from Monday's Intelligencer interview with Zatezalo. Ward also did a telephone interview with Zatezalo and, among other points, asked him about the safety issues at his previous employment. Zatezalo dodged the question:
Zatezalo refused to discuss in any detail the history of safety problems at Rhino Resources while he held major management positions, including CEO, at that company.
“I won’t speak to it except to say that any problems that existed at Rhino were properly addressed,” Zatezalo said.
I'll bet we'll hear that answer a few more times in the coming days.