Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Mine-safety agency not living up to Obama's promises for transparency, Ky. lawyer says

The Mine Safety and Health Administration is getting heat from groups who claim the organization is withholding information that should be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act.

OMB Watch reports that the secretive tactics of MSHA are not meeting the standards of a transparent government President Obama promised when his term began. In the past 25 years, Kentucky mine-safety attorney Tony Oppegard says, he has requested and received information from MSHA without issue. But, in October 2008, that openness stopped. Since then, Oppegard says MSHA has given him the runaround and cited several exemptions to the FOIA as reasons for withholding information, which he calls “utter rubbish.” He has denounced MSHA’s failure to disclose and reminded the agency's legal counsel of the Obama administration’s new FOIA policies.

In an article in Mine Safety and Health News, Oppegard wrote that more enforcement is needed to achieve transparency on the part of MSHA. “Miners can only hope – and trust – that when the new assistant secretary takes office, he will put a quick end to the agency’s blatant attempts to protect operators who have been charged with discrimination by miners,” he wrote. Obama has yet to name an assistant secretary of labor for coal-mine safety and health.

The subscription-only newsletter also reports that it has had difficulty extracting information from MSHA. In an editorial in the same issue, it says the agency’s secrecy is suspicious. "Regarding FOIA, MSHA is spewing red tape and accomplishing nothing, except alienating the American people – miners, their families, industry and the press." (Read more) –From The Rural Blog

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