Ah, the magic of the presidency. The Senate has refused to confirm former coal company executive Richard Stickler as the head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). So, while they were out, Bush gave him
a recess appointment to the post.
MSHA exists to protect miners' well-being. Once a miner himself, Stickler spent most of his career above ground, much of it as an executive for companies like coal giant Massey Energy. According to the Charleston Gazette
, Stickler's mines had accident rates of twice the national average.
At a Senate hearing in March, Stickler explained that if U.S. mines were unsafe, it wasn't an "enforcement problem," merely a "compliance problem." His nomination was opposed by the United Mine Workers of America and the AFL-CIO, among others.
Failing to win Senate approval earlier this year, the administration made Stickler a senior contract employee to the Department of Labor, working with mine safety issues.
Bush first nominated Stickler after the Sago mine disaster in January. Family members of miners who died in the disaster wrote
to President Bush, urging him not to appoint Stickler to the important safety post.