Two days before his term ended, a member of the independent federal commission overseeing mine safety accused the Trump administration of an “unlawful” action that he warned could endanger the “lives of the nation’s miners.”
Robert F. Cohen, whose term expired last month on the mine safety and health panel, alleged in a scathing dissent that Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta had undertaken an illegal move that threatens to undermine the “most powerful tool for protecting the lives of the nation’s miners.”
Cohen’s criticism was in response to the Trump administration easing enforcement of a key worker safety rule against a West Virginia coal mine, despite finding “significant and substantial” violations at the facility.
The Department of Labor determined that Pocahontas Coal Company’s Affinity Mine would no longer be subject to tough enforcement actions taken against mines that repeatedly violate mine health and safety laws and receive a “Pattern of Violations” notice.
Cohen blasted the administration for a “corrupted reading” of the law. “As an independent agency charged with reviewing enforcement actions brought by the Secretary, this Commission should not assent to such an illegal act,” wrote Cohen, whose term on the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission ended on August 30.
Cohen said there was no evidence that the Pocahontas facility had a clean record as federal law requires for a mine to have its Pattern of Violation designation removed, making the Labor Department’s decision “legally unsupportable.” He also said the coal company and the administration “attempted to shield their actions from the public by initially filing pleadings for us in secret.”
Trump has totally turned around the fortune of the whites of southern Appalachia.