The Mine Safety and Health News reported on June 23, 2010 that MSHA’s Coal Mine Safety and Health Division has been removing mines from its pattern of violations list due to budgetary constraints, according to a memo from the Office of the Inspector General and released by the office of Congressman George Miller, D-Calif., who has oversight of the mine safety agency.
According to the OIG’s office, this MSHA Coal Division policy “requires immediate corrective action.” The OIG found that in March 2009 when the Coal Mine Safety and Health (CMS&H) Administrator, Kevin Stricklin, notified his District Managers of mines meeting the POV screening criteria (including scores for each mine) he directed them to “select no more than one mine on the initial screening list per field office and a maximum of 3 mines per district.”
“MSHA’s initial screening process allowed program Administrators to remove mines from the original list based on a written justification from the District Manager. Our preliminary review of information provided by MSHA shows that MSHA performed five POV analyses between 2007 and 2009. Those analyses identified 89 mines for potential POV status. For a variety of reasons (not yet validated through audit procedures), MSHA officials removed 21 of these mines from the initial screening lists. Mines that were removed did not receive letters notifying them of potential POV status nor did MSHA monitor these mines for improved rates of significant and substantial violations.
OIG reported that it appears that CMS&H removed at least 10 mines because of the limit established by the CMS&H Administrator’s instruction. The OIG has recommended that MSHA immediately evaluate the 10 mines for POV status, stating that “MSHA is not subjecting these mines to the enhanced oversight that accompanies potential POV status, yet it does not have evidence that they had reduced their rate of significant and substantial violations. As a result, miners may be subjected to increased safety risks.”