Zatezalo receives narrow approval

WHEELING — The nomination of Wheeling resident David Zatezalo to lead the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration gained the narrow approval of a Senate committee on Wednesday, and now moves before the full Senate.

President Donald Trump has nominated Zatezalo, a Weirton native, to be Assistant Secretary of Labor overseeing MSHA. On Wednesday, members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted 12-11 along party lines to report Zatezalo’s nomination to the Senate and send it to a floor vote. If he gains the Senate’s approval, Zatezalo will take over MSHA.

All 12 Republicans on the committee voted Wednesday in favor of Zatezalo, while the 11 Democrats voted in opposition. The vote was the same for six other candidates whose nominations were considered Wednesday.

Following the actions, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., asked for letters opposing some nominations — including one from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. — to be included in the record when they are reported to the Senate.

In his letter, Manchin stated his opposition to fellow West Virginian Zatezalo’s appointment at MSHA.

“After reviewing his qualifications and record of safety during his time in the coal industry, I am not convinced that Mr. Zatezalo is suited to oversee the federal agency that implements and enforces mine safety laws and standards,” Manchin wrote.

Murray and fellow Democrats Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Robert Casey of Pennsylvania have sent their own letter to MSHA, asking for additional information surrounding investigations that took place when Zatezalo served in senior management positions at Rhino Resource Partners from 2007 to 2014, and was vice president of mining operations for AEP Energy Services from 2001 to 2004.

The senators sought documents and communications relating to investigations of incidents at Rhino’s Eagle 1 mine in Bolt, W.Va., and at subsidiary CAM Mining in Pikesville, Ky. Also referenced is the investigation of a Nov. 8, 2001 fatal blasting accident that occurred at the Cadiz portal of the Nelms Mine owned by AEP Ohio Coal.

During testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Oct. 5, Zatezalo said he agreed with sanctions placed on Rhino Resources by MSHA in 2011.The company’s Eagle 1 mine received letters that year from MSHA warning them that the agency planned to step up enforcement at its Eagle 1 mine because of a “pattern of violations.”

Zatezalo said he went on to fire management at the mine.

COMMENTS