Stickler Hired as Mine Safety Consultant for Labor Department

The nomination of Richard Stickler to head the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) was dropped after Senate Democrats expressed concern that the former coal industry executive was apathetic about mine safety. Now the Department of Labor will be turning to Stickler for advice on mine safety.

Stickler, who had been nominated by President Bush to lead MSHA, was hired by the Department of Labor on June 29 as an advisor on mine safety issues.

According to MSHA spokesman Dirk Fillpot, the agency hired Stickler to "tap Stickler's expertise and vast experience to assist in a variety of issues related to mine safety."

"He can provide insight and recommendations that will be valuable to the department and also provide efforts to improve mine safety, including the implementation of the MINER Act (S.2803), recruitment and training of inspectors and the adjustment of penalties," Fillpot said.

Stickler served as director of Pennsylvania's Bureau of Deep Mine Safety. Earlier in his career, he worked for Beth Energy Mines Inc. for 30 years in a number of positions.

A White House spokesperson said federal agencies sometimes hire presidential nominees into jobs as consultants when their confirmation process is delayed.

Controversial Candidate

Stickler's nomination has been shrouded in controversy ever since Bush chose him to lead MSHA. Stickler's critics contend Stickler shows no concern for safety problems in the mining industry a sensitive issue in the wake of several high-profile mining tragedies this year and charge that in his positions with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Deep Mine Safety and with Beth Energy Mines he was much more focused on profits and production rather than on worker safety.

On June 13, Republican leaders decided to cancel the vote on Stickler's nomination after it became clear he didn't have enough support to win Senate approval. (See "Republicans Say No to Stickler.")

At the signing ceremony for the MINER Act a new law that calls for stronger protections for miners Bush continued to laud Stickler and said he would continue to support he nomination.

In order for Stickler to again become a candidate for the MSHA administrator position, he would need the support of 60 Senators to overcome a legislative hold West Virginia Democrat Robert Byrd has placed on his nomination.

Union President Wants More Info on Hiring

Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers Union of America and an outspoken critic of Stickler's nomination, said he filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Labor, seeking clarification of Stickler's new role as a consultant.

"I am particularly interested in documents setting forth the terms of his appointment including its duration, his financial compensation and benefits, his job description, who he reports to and who reports to him," Roberts said in his letter. "Additionally, I would like a copy of any calendar or other records showing his schedule of appointments, his expenditures and any authority to incur expenditures on behalf of MSHA or the DOL."

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