Bush Renominates Stickler for MSHA Chief

Despite failing to win Senate approval, President George W. Bush on Sept. 6 resubmitted the nomination of former coal mine executive Richard Stickler to head MSHA.

Under Senate rules, the nomination was returned to the White House when the Senate action on it was not completed before the August recess.

Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., placed a legislative hold on Stickler's nomination for 3 months, claiming that while Stickler worked for the Pennsylvania Bureau of Deep Mine Safety and for Beth Energy Mines Stickler failed to demonstrate that safety was a priority.

Both Byrd and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., the leading Democratic member of the Senate committee with oversight on mine safety, have expressed concerns with Stickler's record, and said they hoped the Senate rejection of the Stickler nomination would provide the Bush administration with the opportunity to nominate "someone more dedicated to miner safety."

"The White House apparently has greater concern for politics than for mine safety," Byrd said in a statement released Sept. 7. "The Senate rejected this nomination in August, and I hope that the Senate will do so again."

Kennedy, in another statement, said that the nation's miners and their families deserve stronger action to resolve the current mine crisis and that he found it "appalling that the president would renominate Richard Stickler for this critical mine safety position in the face of intense opposition from miners and their families."

Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America, said that by renominating Stickler, "President Bush has ignored the will of the U.S. Senate and added insult to injury to coal miners and their families."

Back in June, Bush signed the MINER Act (S.2803), which requires miners to carry 2 hours' worth of emergency oxygen instead of the previous minimum of 1 hour, and also requires a mine rescue team to be located within 1 hour of every mine as opposed to 2 hours. (See article: "Mine Safety Bill Signed Into Law.")

Stickler currently has a 6-month contract to work as an advisor to the Department of Labor, which houses MSHA.

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