Trump Nominees Still Control A Key Mine Safety Agency Well Into Biden’s Second Year

1 month ago

Sixteen months into the Biden presidency, Republicans still effectively control a federal agency that oversees mine safety, frustrating miner advocates who say the Trump nominees will continue to hand down decisions friendly to mine operators.

Not many people outside the industry would be familiar with the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, an independent agency that reviews legal disputes stemming from citations and fines against mining companies. But the commission plays a crucial role in making sure workers come out of their mines alive, by interpreting health and safety law and seeing that it’s properly enforced by federal inspectors.

When the Mine Safety and Health Administration issues fines against a mine operator, the operator can appeal them to the commission. In general, a commission more aligned with operators than safety hawks is going to make it harder for inspectors to enforce the law aggressively.

The commission is supposed to have five sitting members who serve staggered terms and adjudicate cases as a panel. By tradition, the president’s party gets three members and the other party gets two. But right now, the agency only has three Senate-confirmed commissioners, with a 2-1 GOP majority. The two Republican members, William Althen and Marco Rajkovich, are longtime lawyers for mining companies.

The lone Democrat is Art Traynor, a union lawyer formerly with the United Mine Workers of America. President Joe Biden designated Traynor the commission’s chair, but Traynor can still be outvoted by his two GOP counterparts on contentious cases that set precedent. Such decisions can determine when a mine operator might be Read Entire Article