US government accused of dismantling health protections

ANTI Republican website, BushGreenwatch, claimed earlier in the week the Bush Administration has weakened safety standards for US miners related to exposure to underground diesel fumes. The article drew an angry rebuttal from the mining industry’s representative body National Mining Association (NMA).
US government accused of dismantling health protections US government accused of dismantling health protections US government accused of dismantling health protections US government accused of dismantling health protections US government accused of dismantling health protections

Measuring exhaust emissions - courtesy Sean McGinn "Maintaining Diesel Engines for Emissions Control".

Staff Reporter

BushGreenwatch said under the Clinton administration, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) developed strict new rules reducing the concentration of diesel particulate matter to which workers could be exposed.

“When the final rule was issued in 2001, mine operators were given a year and a half to make modest reductions in the amount of diesel exhaust workers were exposed to in their mines. They were given six years to make more substantial reductions,” BushGreenwatch reported.

According to BushGreenwatch the Bush administration extended the deadline for modest reductions by a full year, adding this was illegal under the Administrative Procedure Act and MSHA's own statute, because the agency failed to hold a public comment period before making the change.

In its rebuttal, the NMA pointed out that only some provisions of a final rule on particulate matter ("Diesel Particulate Exposure for Underground Metal-Nonmetal Miners") were temporarily delayed in 2002 based on a settlement agreement supported by industry, labor (United Steelworkers of America) and MSHA.

Recent research concluded that the sampling technology called for in the final rule was flawed and would result in inaccurate sampling results.

“The settlement agreement called upon MSHA to solicit public comments on changes based upon scientific findings developed since the final rule was promulgated,” NMA said. “Changes will therefore correct deficiencies in the rule, not weaken it.”

The NMA added the settlement agreement did not alter the interim or final exposure levels contained in the final rule. The interim limit became effective last year and the final level is scheduled to become effective January 2005.

In its final riposte NMA said during the eight years of the Clinton Administration mine fatalities dropped by 8% while during the last 3 years mine fatalities have declined by 34%.

“The facts support the view that more efficient and strategically focused regulations have improved mine safety. In response to focused regulation, fatalities have declined at a rate that is 3 times better than over the period when a strategy of more-regulation-equals-improved safety carried the day.”

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