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Washington, D.C. --Commissioners in charge of reviewing mine safety rules should have "practical experience related to mining" but this isn't always the case now, according to U.S. Senator Mike Enzi.

Enzi has written a list of standards he believes nominees for spots on the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission should meet before being considered. Enzi has also written a letter to President Clinton outlining the standards and Enzi's concerns with the commission nomination process.

"People who are in charge of reviewing mine safety standards should be accountable for meeting practical standards themselves before they are put in such a position," said Enzi.

Enzi's comments came after a recent Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee vote to confirm two nominees to the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission. The committee voted 17-1 to confirm Mary Lucille Jordan and Ted Verheggen.

Enzi was the lone dissenter, voting against the nominees because they lacked any practical experience related to mining and he made it clear his actions were not politically motivated. Verheggen in fact is a member of the Labor Committee's Republican staff.

"It doesn't matter what political party a nominee belongs to or who they work for," said Enzi. "What matters is what they have done, what mining experience they have and their ability to apply this experience to their review of mine safety regulations."

Enzi said mining safety standard decisions have to be made knowing that lives are at stake.

"Mine safety is serious business, especially in states like Wyoming. We cannot have unqualified people making the decisions," he said. "In order for us to put the right people on the commission, we have to have nominees who meet sensible criteria relating to the post they will be filling."

Enzi believes nominees for the committee should have:

  • An in-depth experience and knowledge of mining safety and mining as a whole;
  • A good working knowledge of the Code of Federal regulations;
  • Working knowledge of the Mining Safety and Health Administration Policy manual;
  • The ability to review and understand why standards were written and promulgated, their intent, and why they are needed;
  • The ability to review interpretations or possible interpretations of standards;
  • An understanding of government, labor and industry's need for a standard and the nominee should bring a basic objectivity to these issues.

Enzi is working on a list of suitable commission nominees for future commission consideration.

The five mine safety review commissioners are each paid a salary of $115,000 per year and serve a six-year term. One position, to fill the last 18 months of a term, remains vacant. Two more of the commissioners' terms will expire next year.