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P O Box 1050 / 132 West German St, Shepherdstown, West Virginia 25443
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
MSHA News Release No. 96-002
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: (703) 235-1452
MSHA News Release No. 96-002
Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: (703) 235-1452
January 31, 1996
United States Department of Labor
Press Release-January 31 1996
J. DAVITT McATEER NAMED AS ACTING LABOR DEPARTMENT SOLICITOR
J. Davitt McAteer, assistant secretary for the Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), has been named acting solicitor of the Labor Department.
McAteer has served as assistant labor secretary since February 1994 and, in addition to his new responsibilities as acting solicitor, will continue to function as MSHA's top official.
"Davitt McAteer has been extremely effective in running the Mine Safety and Health Administration," said Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich. "He brings to this new position considerable expertise in the law of the workplace; he has long supported enacting and enforcing health and safety laws that protect our nation's workers."
Ida Castro, presently serving as the deputy assistant secretary for workers' compensation, has been named acting deputy solicitor.
From 1984-93, McAteer served as executive director of the Occupational Safety and Health Law Center, a public interest law firm that engages in litigation, education and training, and policy analysis of workplace health and safety issues, both domestically and abroad.
McAteer received his law degree from West Virginia University in 1970. The following year, he launched his legal career as an attorney with the Center for the Study of Responsive Law. His main thrust was improving conditions in U.S. mines.
In 1972, McAteer took a position with the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). As solicitor of safety for the UMWA, he helped to revitalize the union's safety and health program, improving the training of rank-and-file safety inspectors.
McAteer is married, has five children and lives in Jefferson County, W.Va.Source
MSHA News Release No. 96-002
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May 19, 2011
The McAteer Report: A Mine Safety Blockbuster
The report issued this morning by the Governor's Independent Investigation Panel on the West Virginia mine explosion that killed 29 miners at the Massey Energy Company’s Upper Big Branch Mine just over a year ago will never make the New York Times best seller list. But it should be required reading for all policymakers with responsibility for protecting the safety of the workers who spend much of their lives deep underground digging coal.
Although the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and Massey Energy have conducted their own investigations (MSHA's is forthcoming) into the causes of the tragic explosion, Joe Manchin, then the Governor, correctly assumed that the full story was not likely to come out of two entities with such an obvious stake in the outcome. He asked Davitt McAteer, the head of MSHA during the Clinton Administration and a long-time advocate of greater safety in the nation’s underground mines to assemble an independent and objective panel to investigate the explosion. McAteer brought together a team composed of experts without any special connection to the coal industry or its regulators.
The tightly drafted 120-page report provides a clear and detailed account of events that preceded and followed the explosion and of what we know about its causes based on its own examination of the physical evidence and on more thant 300 interviews with persons involved in the explosion and in the management of the Massey Energy Company.
The panel concludes that the immediate cause of the explosion was methane gas that had reached unsafe levels in the mine. Massey Energy took the position that there was a massive entry of methane into the chamber through a crack in the floor that inundated the mine. The governor’s panel, by contrast, concluded that the explosion was caused by a small amount of methane that, once ignited by a spark from a shearer, caused a fireball that spread to coal dust that had inexcusably been allowed to build up for miles throughout the mine. The coal dust in turn carried the explosion throughout more than two miles of the large mine. The report implies that the ignition of a small amount of methane would not have caused the massive explosion and that absent the negligent accumulations of coal dust, the miners might well have survived the explosion.
The panel, in other words, concludes that the explosion was entirely foreseeable and to a large degree preventable.
The mine also had a serious ventilation problem that resulted in too little oxygen being available to the miners in the areas that were being worked. Numerous other problems strongly indicated that safety was at best a secondary consideration in the mine.
The report also examines why the company did very little to prevent the foreseeable explosion. The explanation was a simple one. The company routinely placed profits over safety. A chapter entitled “The Massey way” provides a detailed history of a company for which running coal was a much higher priority than protecting workers. The company’s mines had been cited tens of thousands of times for “significant and substantial” violations of MSHA requirements; Massey paid small fines (often after lengthy appeals) and returned to running coal. The fines were merely a cost of doing business.
Finally, the report examines the role of the state and federal agencies in causing the explosion. In the case of the state, it notes that the inspectorate of the state Office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training was far too small to give adequate attention to all the state’s 261 underground mines. MSHA’s tiny inspectorate was likewise too small to fulfill its responsibilities.
The report thoroughly debunks Massey Energy’s arrogant contention that many of the problems encountered at the mine were caused by MSHA regulations, and not the company’s own neglect. The report simply states the obvious -- mine safety is the responsibility of the operator, not the government.
In a rare departure from investigations of this genre, the Governor’s panel addresses in a straightforward fashion the raw political power that Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship exercised over the state’s government and judicial system by virtue of his willingness to contribute millions of dollars to elect politicians and judges who shared his laissez faire minimalist views of government regulation. Blankenship’s power was on full public view in 2009 when the U.S. Supreme Court held that one the State Supreme Court justices who voted in favor of Massey Energy in a dispute with a rival coal company should have recused himself because of the large political contribution that Blankenship had made to his campaign.
Over time lax regulation combined with a culture of complacency in the company to produce what the report calls, in a very insightful chapter, “the normalization of deviance.”
The only way to reduce the incidence of these tragedies in the future is to write stringent regulations and to enforce them strictly.
The report makes several recommendations for more stringent regulations that MSHA could promulgate in the near future. Unfortunately, it is beginning to look like MSHA, like several other regulatory agencies in the Obama Administration, may be in the process of hunkering down in the wake of the 2010 elections and may not be in regulation-writing mode until after the 2012 elections, if then.
This is not the time for timidity. The proper response to a tragedy like the Upper Big Branch explosion is to fix the statutes and regulations in ways that will prevent similar tragedies in the future. The agency should act on the panel’s recommendations before the end of this year, so that the regulations can be finalized well in advance of the 2012 elections.
On the enforcement front, companies must be forced to pay high enough fines for “serious and significant” violations that the penalties for hundreds of violations in a given year will eat substantially into the company’s profits.
In addition, as the report recognizes, something needs to be done about the fact that an operator does not pay any fine until the lengthy process of appeals to the Mine Safety and Health Review Commission have run their course. As a consequence, operators willing to challenge every citation have avoided paying fines for many years without any adverse financial consequences. More importantly, the mere threat of a challenge is often enough to induce MSHA officials to lower the fines to levels that are acceptable to the operators, thus ensuring that they have little impact on the company’s future conduct.
Congress should amend the law to force operators to pay assessed fines into an escrow account where any interest earned will go to the public treasury and not to the company if the challenge proves unsuccessful.
We all owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the workers who risk their lives mining the coal that produces the power that lights our homes and offices. But they deserve more than gratitude. They deserve a workplace that is free of recognized hazards and that reflects the best available mine safety technologies. The Governor’s panel report identifies many things that Congress and MSHA can do to improve worker safety in underground mines. Out of respect for the miners who died in the Upper Big Branch explosion, Congress should enact new legislation aimed at changing the culture of companies like Massey Energy, and MSHA should promulgate stringent regulations requiring operators to employ the best available safety technologies.
Thomas McGarity, CPR Member Scholar; Endowed Chair in Admin. Law, University of Texas School of Law. Bio.
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MONONGAH: THE TRAGIC STORY OF THE 1907 MONONGAH MINE DISASTER (West Virginia and Appalachia ;) [Kindle Edition]DAVITT MCATEER (Author)
CLICK HERE TO purchase the book on Amazon>>
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Local attorney featured at 'Storied Evenings' event
July 15, 2011
Mary Stortstrom / Special to The Chronicle
This year's Storied Evenings event series began on July 6 at the Presbyterian Meetinghouse on Washington Street in Shepherdstown.
The event began in 2004, growing out of a lecture series. The idea of storytelling was incorporated to make the events more inviting and to differentiate from the many other lectures held in Shepherdstown.
The stories each week are from a local person of interest with some recognition. The informal criteria are that people should know of this person, but not know them personally.
Musicians performed at the opening of the event July 6 followed by a story from local attorney J. Davitt McAteer. Afterwards, the audience participated in a question-and-answer session and was invited into the fellowship hall of the meetinghouse for desserts and an art viewing.
McAteer began his career as a social worker but found that he didn't want to temporarily fix problems but instead actually make changes.
He went on to law school at West Virginia University and in 1969 and started working in mine safety with Ralph Nader, a progressive political activist who later ran for president. Together they enacted the 1969 Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Acts.
McAteer gained recognition for his work on mine safety and was asked to come to New York City after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center towers in 2001. He helped redesign and reinforce the subway tunnels as well as basements and foundations under buildings throughout the city.
McAteer said that he has since continued to work to improve mine safety but has never worked in a mine. He has strived to better both federal and local laws and regulations and worked with former Gov. Joe Manchin.
He said there are three preventative measures coal mines are supposed to take to prevent methane gas ignitions in mines that a Massey Energy plant ignored in 2010, leading to a mine disaster at Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County.
McAteer said when coal is cut into, it releases highly flammable methane gas and leaves coal dust. Ventilation, hosing the work area down and spreading ground limestone to lower the ignition temperature of coal dust are ways mine companies can prevent fires and keep workers safe.
McAteer said Upper Big Branch Mine ignored and cut corners on these safety measures, and sparks from a cutting machine ignited the methane gas.
"Coal dust without limestone rock dust is like gunpowder," McAteer said.
Twenty-nine miners died from the explosion, and some died from carbon monoxide poisoning.
McAteer said that mine safety is supposed to start at the top of the company and go down from there, but in the case of the mine disaster in 2010 this was not true. McAteer said 17 upper management members did not testify in the trials, and some of the mine employees were intimidated out of testifying.
McAteer said that West Virginia has the reputation of being the worst mining state in the nation. He is working on trying to unionize miners, something he said may help improve their working conditions. McAteer said that unions are another reporting authority, which is why mining companies stop the formation of labor unions.
The last Storied Evenings event will be July 20 at the Presbyterian Meetinghouse, 100 W. Washington St. at 7:30 p.m.
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — An independent investigation of Wheeling Jesuit University's billing practices for federal grants and programs in 2008 found no violations of laws or regulations, the school's president said Wednesday.
President Rick Beyer said the Board of Trustees voted Wednesday to turn that report over to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Wheeling, adding that the Northern Panhandle Catholic school is cooperating in the investigation.
Federal investigators are looking into whether the university and a vice president, former Mine Safety and Health Administration chief J. Davitt McAteer, conspired to use millions of federal grant and program dollars from NASA and other federal agenices for personal gain.
Some of the allegations against the school and one of the world's foremost experts on mine safety are contained in an affidavit filed by an agent in the NASA Office of Inspector General.
Beyer, who issued a similar statement to the Jesuit community late Wednesday, said the administration could only speculate on the focus of the investigation until an affidavit in the case was unsealed. It then decided to release the 2008 report.
The university's audit committee requested that review by "independent, special counsel experienced in federal grants who had served as general counsel for a major research university," Beyer said.
That person, who was not named in Beyer's statement, "determined the university's cost-allocation method to be permissible under federal regulations and found no improprieties."
The school is "committed to openness in all dealings" and to transparency in its cost-allocation methods, Beyer said. It has enlisted help from federal grant experts and a former United States Attorney to "aid us in full cooperation with this investigation," he added.
The NASA investigator's affidavit said he has evidence to suggest McAteer and entities within the university fraudulently billed expenses to federal grant programs or cooperative agreements from 2005 through 2011.
Those expenses range from McAteer's salary — which surged from $130,300 in 2006 to $230,659 by 2008 — to cellphones, computers, technical support and salaries for other staff, including a secretary in McAteer's Shepherdstown private law office.
McAteer's attorney hasn't commented on the allegations, but the affidavit suggests he and the university could face five possible federal crimes — theft of federal funds; major fraud; conspiracy; false claims; and wire fraud.
McAteer also is director of Wheeling Jesuit's National Technology Transfer Center and its Erma Ora Byrd Center for Education Technologies, which is named for the wife of the late longtime U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd.
The technology transfer center does work on mine safety and health, missile defense, health technology and small business partnerships. The Center for Educational Technologies has housed the NASA-sponsored "Classroom of the Future" program since 1990. The space agency began construction of the center in 1993 and later helped build the educational technologies center.
Between fiscal years 2000 and 2009, NASA gave Wheeling Jesuit more than $116 million, more than $65 million of that after McAteer took over the school's Sponsored Programs Office in 2005.
A finance manager in that office told the investigator that McAteer created the Combined Cost Management Service Center when he took over. Merging the billing of the two centers allowed him "to control and consolidate all the expenses, regardless of whether such expenses were related to the federal awards."
McAteer was hand-picked by West Virginia's former governor, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, to oversee thorough, independent investigations of three coal mine disasters since 2006. The Sago Mine explosion trapped and killed 12 men in January 2006, while the Alma No. 1 mine fire weeks later killed two more. McAteer also issued the first report on the 2010 Upper Big Branch explosion, which killed 29.
The reports he authored are now among the evidence that federal investigators are studying.
McAteer has also been a media commentator on cases ranging from the successful rescue of 33 Chilean gold and copper miners trapped underground for nearly 70 days in 2010 to the collapse of Utah's Crandall Canyon mine and the death of six miners, two rescuers and a federal inspector.
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HFI Wealth Management is leading sponsor for race - News, opinion, resources | Shepherdstown Chronicle- Supported by Davitt McAteer & Associates
HFI Wealth Management is leading sponsor for race - News, opinion, resources | Shepherdstown
HFI Wealth Management, a Shepherdstown-based firm, is the leading sponsor for the Potomac Valley Audubon Society's 2014 "Race for the Birds."
The race will be held on Saturday, April 5 at the National Conservation Training Center just outside Shepherdstown. All proceeds from the event will benefit the Society's educational programs for children.
HFI Wealth Management was the race's "Platinum" Level sponsor, contributing $1,000. The accompanying photo shows, from left to right, Back Row: Stacy Lindberg, Amanda Runkles, Rob Hoxton; Front Row: Leota Trainor, Jessie Gleason, Allie Nasteff.
- See more at: http://shepherdstownchronicle.com/page/content.detail/id/511121/HFI-Wealth-Management-is-leading-sponsor-for-race.html#sthash.WkHwyEPw.dpuf
Davitt McAteer and Associates supported this cause.www.DavittMcAteer.com
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J. Davitt McAteer
Davitt McAteer, Esq., a native of West Virginia, 1966 graduate of Wheeling Jesuit University, and a 1970 graduate of the West Virginia University College of Law, has devoted much of his professional efforts to mine health and safety issues. He worked with consumer and environmental advocate Ralph Nader on efforts to enact the landmark 1969 Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Acts. During the 1970s, Davitt led the safety and health programs of the United Mine Workers and founded the Occupational Safety and Health Law Center. In 1984, he visited South Africa at the request of the National Union of Mine Workers to study health and safety issues, and during the Clinton administration served as Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health at the United States Department of Labor. He also served nearly two years as the Acting Solicitor for the Department of Labor, the second largest law firm in the federal government at that time.
Today, he serves as Vice President of Sponsored Programs at Wheeling Jesuit University, and leads several national centers that impact economic development, education, and mine safety, including the Robert C. Byrd National Technology Transfer Center and the Erma Ora Byrd Center for Educational Technologies, which houses the NASA sponsored Classroom of the Future. Davitt is director of the University’s Coal Impoundment Project, which identifies and develops methods of stabilizing or removing coal impoundments throughout Appalachia, and is consultant to the University’s Clifford M. Lewis, S.J., Appalachian Institute, which addresses issues important to residents of Appalachia.
In January of 2006, West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin asked Mr. McAteer to serve as personal advisor and conduct an independent investigation into the cause or causes of the Sago Mine Disaster and the Aracoma Alma No. 1 Mine Fire, both of which occurred in January, 2006. Mr. McAteer and his team produced two reports in July and November including recommendations to improve mine safety in West Virginia and across the nation.
Davitt maintains an office and lives in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. He is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court, in the State of West Virginia, the District of Columbia, the United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the United States Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, and the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. He also served as Co-Chairman of the American Bar Association?s Occupational Safety & Health Law Section.
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