Stickler takes top job despite resistance

PRESIDENT Bush has gone ahead without Senate approval and in the face of opposition from the United Mine Workers of America and Senate Democrats to appoint Richard Stickler head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Angie Tomlinson

Whilst Congress is in recess Bush does not require Senate approval to appoint Stickler to the job, Associated Press reported.

Bush nominated Stickler for the job last year, but Democratic senators Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts stopped the progression by putting a legislative hold on the president's nomination.

The Democrats said Stickler had spent too many years as a coal mining executive and failed to demonstrate that safety was his top priority.

A number of Democrats argued Stickler’s record suggested he would put mine production ahead of mine safety.

“The sad reality of the Bush administration's actions is that the person who will now lead MSHA lacks the trust of the miners he's charged to protect and has a skewed view of what the safety priorities should be,” said Senator Byrd, AP reported.

“We need a bulldog agency that will place miner safety over all other priorities, and not an agency that will continue to place a higher priority on mine production than on miner protection."

Republicans said Stickler had managed coal companies and had worked as a miner and headed Pennsylvania's Bureau of Deep Mine Safety.

On Thursday Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said, “Richard has extensive experience in mining and protecting miners' lives that he will use to strengthen enforcement of mine safety laws and help ensure the safety and health of miners nationwide."