West Virginia Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Manchin will not support the Trump administration’s nominee to lead the federal agency in charge of mine safety.
Manchin said in a statement that he will not support David Zatezalo to lead the Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA. Zatezalo, a Wheeling, West Virginia, resident and former coal company executive, was named as Trump’s pick for the post in early September.
Manchin said that after reviewing Zatezalo’s qualifications and safety record during his time in the coal industry, he is “not convinced that Mr. Zatezalo is suited to oversee the federal agency that implements and enforces mine safety laws and standards.”
Manchin noted an increase in deaths within the industry. Twelve miners have died since the beginning of 2017, a rise from eight fatalities in all of 2016.
Zatezalo has worked for 40 years in the coal industry. While he was a top official at Rhino Resources, the company acquired numerous safety violations.
Rhino Resources, which operates mines in West Virginia and Kentucky, was the focus of MSHA scrutiny following what regulators called a pattern of violations, and a miner’s death at one mine and allegations of interference in mine inspections at another.
“In West Virginia we are painfully familiar with the human toll that accompanies a mine accident,” Manchin wrote. “Strong leadership at the Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) is non-negotiable.”