Monday, December 21, 2015

Six Questions for J. Davitt McAteer

Former mine safety regulator, now investigating tragedy, complains of inaction



On the anniversary of the Upper Big Branch mine explosion in West Virginia, we asked J. Davitt McAteer for his perspective. McAteer,who headed the Mine Safety and Health Administration from 1993 to 2000, is leading an independent investigation into the disaster, which killed 29 workers.

Has anything changed, from a regulatory standpoint, over the past year?
There hasn’t been any change, either on a statewide basis in West Virginia or in the nation.
Why not?
The lack of action can be traced to two items: The investigations into the disaster have not been completed . . . and Upper Big Branch was replaced by the [BP Deepwater Horizon] oil spill. The legislative agenda moves from one topic to another topic, and the first topic receives less attention. At the moment, we do not have any impetus to get a legislative package through Congress.


J. Davitt McAteer, former head of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, headed an independent investigation of the April 2010 mine explosion that criticized a corporate culture "bent on production at the expense of safety" and concluded that his former agency had "failed its duty as the watchdog for miners."
Jeff Gentner/The Associated Press Davitt McAteer & Associates

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