Saturday, April 10, 2010

More evidence of regulatory failures of mining

This story in Sunday's New York Times characterizes the Mine Safety and Health Administration as a "meek watchdog." In fact, the details in the report suggest that the MSHA is so powerless that it can hardly be other than "meek," though it also suggests that the agency fails to use some of the powers it does have--such as those to close mines it deems unsafe and to close repeat offenders. Here are some excerpts that compare MSHA's powers to those of other administrative agencies.

The fines it levies are relatively small, and many go uncollected for years. It lacks subpoena power, a basic investigatory tool. Its investigators are not technically law enforcement officers, like those at other agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.

And its criminal sanctions are weak, a result of compromises over the 1977 Mine Act that created the agency. Falsifying records is a felony, for example, while deliberate violations of safety standards that lead to deaths are misdemeanors.

No comments: