Mine Inspectors Questioned Administration’s Commitment To Mine Safety

The Bush administration has announced that they will begin an investigation into the events surrounding the Sago coal-mine incident, an investigation that should explore the administration’s record on mine safety.

The Labor Department denies that budget cuts and staff reductions under President Bush have hindered the ability of the department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration to ensure coal-mine safety. But Jack Spadaro, a former mine safety investigator, claims that mine inspectors raised concerns before Sago about the disastrous consequences that might result from the Labor Department’s unwillingness to enforce safety regulations:

Jack Spadaro, former director of the MSHA National Mine Safety Academy, said inspectors told him privately that Labor Department opposition to vigorous safety regulation has hindered their work.

“Two weeks before this explosion, I was told by an inspector, ‘Jack, there’s going to be another disaster because we can’t do our jobs,’ ” he said in an interview.

The MSHA (Mine Safety and Health Administration) should question Spadaro as part of its investigation.

This is not to suggest the administration’s budget cuts caused the West Virginia accident, nor is it the president’s fault that an explosion occurred. But there is a legitimate question as to whether future mining accidents can be prevented through greater enforcement of mining safety regulations and whether the Bush administration is doing all it can in this area.

UPDATE: Christian Science Monitor: “Sago raises red flags for mine oversight”

UPDATE (2): Crooks & Liars has the transcript of Jack Spadaro’s appearance on Hannity & Colmes. An interesting portion:

SPADARO: Well, actually, there were three orders to close portions of the mine that were issued in the October to the December period. And there has been a significant change since the Bush administration took over, the enforcement of mine safety and health.

And I can speak to that, because I worked in the agency, and I talk with people every day who tell me that, in recent years, and particularly in recent months, there’s been a reluctance on the part of the top management at the Mine Safety and Health Administration to enforce the law.