Energy & Environment

Trump names former coal executive to top mining safety post

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President Trump has nominated a former coal executive whose company clashed with federal officials over mining safety rules under President Obama to the top mining safety post in his administration.

Trump on Friday named David Zatezalo, the former chairman of Rhino Resources, to be an assistant secretary of Labor overseeing the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). The position is currently vacant, according to the Department of Labor‘s website.

During Zatezalo’s time as an executive at Rhino, the company was issued two “pattern of violations” letters from MSHA over safety issues at their mines, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported. The letters were sent in 2010 and 2011.


Federal officials at the time were cracking down on safety standards after the fatal 2010 Upper Big Branch mining disaster in West Virginia that left 29 miners dead.

MSHA also sought a federal court injunction against Rhino in 2011 after the agency discovered that employees were warning workers at one Kentucky mine about inspections.

Zatezalo is nominated to fill the position previously held by Joe Main, Obama’s pick for the post who had a lengthy resume in mining safety, including overseeing safety programs for the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA).

“It is my hope that Mr. Zatezalo will take the tough stance on enforcement that is needed to reign in the rising level of serious injuries and fatalities,” UMWA President Cecil Roberts told the Gazette.

“We look forward to meeting with him and sharing ideas on how to best protect the nation’s miners and reduce the number of fatalities.”

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