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Front Page » November 20, 2007 » Local News » Hearings on Crandall Canyon Mine Begin: Part X
Published 2,348 days ago

Hearings on Crandall Canyon Mine Begin: Part X


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By PATSY STODDARD
Editor


Governor Jon Huntsman reports to Utah Mine Commission

Emery County Sheriff LaMar Guymon greets Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman as he arrives at the command post at Crandall Canyon.

Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. spoke before the Utah Mine Safety Commission when they met on Tuesday in Salt Lake. Commission chairman Scott Matheson welcomed the governor to the meeting. Matheson said the commission is a product of a decision the governor made to find out more about the state's role in mining. Matheson said so far in the commission meetings they have heard from many witnesses and experts and are anxious to hear from the governor.

Gov. Huntsman said, "Thank you for the way you are leading this commission. I could summarize what we are looking for as a state with one word, clarity, on the role of the state.

"On Aug. 6, I was in Boise in a meeting about the reseeding after the fires when I received a call about the miners trapped. I left immediately and was at the site for the next eight days. I called the governor in West Virginia to discuss what happened and receive guidance on what might lie ahead. I immediately held a cabinet meeting to discuss the needs involved and set up a local command post," said Gov. Huntsman.

He also said they supplemented help with the families. The state helped to provide essential services; legal intervention, public safety issues and a C-17 loaded with emergency equipment was brought in. "I want to thank everyone in our communities. It was an extraordinary coming together. We held a memorial service and a Celebration of Heroes where 15,000 people came together. We recognize the importance of mining and the good it does in our communities. What can we do better? The above ground communication was difficult until Verizon put up a portable cell phone tower. There was no communication underground. If an astronaut can communicate from a space station, why can't we communicate underground? What can we do to get the best equipment?

"What is everyone's role in a disaster of this type. We need clear cut outlines of the role everyone is to play," said Gov. Huntsman. He said everyone did their best but he sees the need for more training for miners and rescue teams to enhance capabilities.

What has the states's role been in the past and what should it be going forward. What is the state's level of preparedness and what should the state be doing. Who is responsible for what and the need for an organizational outline. The state, MSHA and the private company, who is responsible for what?

Utah Governor Jon Huntsman addresses the press at Crandall Canyon on Aug. 7 this year. He talks about his role at Crandall Canyon with the Utah Mine Safety Commission on Nov. 13. In background, Richard Stickler, MSHA, Kevin Strickland, administrator for coal mine safety and health, Sen. Robert Bennett and Rep. Jim Matheson.

The governor said he looks forward to getting answers and feedback before budget time which comes up in December. If there are legislative needs, those must be looked at in a timely manner. "We need recommendations before the budget goes," said Gov. Huntsman.

Matheson said the points Gov. Huntsman made are well lined up with the preliminary report the commission is preparing. He said the governor and his cabinet responded rapidly, but sensing from the governors comments there was no real blue print there of how things should have gone forward. "How does the community support come into play? Nothing prepares you for one of these situations, but you just respond as effectively as you can," said Matheson. Gov. Huntsman said the human spirit grew as everyone reached out to put their arms around each other. If the state is to play a role, what can we do? Everyone was made available. The Division of Oil, Gas and Mining under the leadership of John Baza went to the site as well as other state agency leaders. The problem came in not having clearly defined roles for everyone to play. What is MSHAs responsibility in regards to the families and the press? The goal is to learn from what the state has been through and to define the role of DOGM and to learn of MSHAs role and the company's responsibility and what is the link between all three of them. Emergency situations need to maximize resources and human resources to the highest level. Gov. Huntsman said there needs to be clarity for each player so we can be better, safer and sharper.

Matheson said the commission will work toward prevention of disaster. More details will become available when the MSHA investigation is completed. All efforts together will point to whether the state should take a more active role.

Each of the commission members had the opportunity to question or comment on the governor's remarks. Price Mayor Joe Piccolo thanked the governor for the responsiveness of Utah and the governor's office. He said local officials change often and he thinks a blueprint of the responsibility of cities is a good idea for future leaders.

Gov. Huntsman thanked Mayor Piccolo and Mayor Gordon for their response which was inspiring during the mine disaster.

David Litvin, president of the Utah Mining Association said, "It is nice to have you here. Our state's response was most incredible. We were thrust to the forefront and you were an excellent spokesperson for the state. I applaud you for sitting back and saying the state's role should be assessed. The state's role should be defined by people with expertise on this issue. I applaud you. Sometimes we react without gathering all of the facts. Thank you for sitting back and looking at it in an appropriate and thoughtful way."

Gov. Huntsman said, "Mining is an important industry and will be for generations to come....we need to put safety first and foremost."

Kay McIff, representative of Emery, Sevier and Sanpete counties wondered about the states role with respect to mine plans. "If we do become involved in approval or veto, we should look at the level of impact the state would have on that."

Gov. Huntsman said that is part of the deliberation to determine the state's role in mine plans.

He said people did a fantastic job during the disaster. But a template needs to be developed to look to the future to see what the state can provide in pulling together resources and people.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration immediately brought their command center to the mine site at Crandall Canyon.

Sen. Mike Dmitrich said a safe miner is a well trained miner. He would like to see the Western Energy Training Center develop mining degrees and assist in the engineer crisis that is upon the industry. He would also like to see more mine testing to assure miners are trained.

Mayor Gordon said she appreciated the governor and his help with the families. The time the governor spent with the families was important. She expressed appreciation for the monument to honor those fallen at Crandall Canyon. Mayor Gordon said she has learned so much in the mine commission meetings even though she has lived in Huntington for 42 years and felt she had a good grasp on the mining industry. She hopes the mining industry will be allowed to continue without road blocks.

Gov. Huntsman said the memorial will be an important capstone.

Sen. Jake Garn expressed his consternation at the lack of cooperation from the feds in obtaining necessary paperwork. It was a tragedy to lose lives and the bureaucracy that prevents the sharing of information is a tragedy as well. When a tragedy occurs MSHA should work together and share information.

Gov. Huntsman said there was no better person to harp on this issue than Sen. Garn. When there are large numbers of people involved it is hard to get continuity. "Our office will help do whatever we can," said Gov. Huntsman.

Matheson hoped the ice was thawing on the transfer of information between MSHA and the commission. He explained the impending crisis in the replacement of workers in the energy industry at all levels from entry level positions to engineers and management. "We will come to you with education and training recommendations. We need people in these critical positions," said Matheson.

Matheson expressed appreciation to the governor for addressing the mine commission. He said the commission will prepare an interim report to submit to the governor in the near future this will include short term recommendations for now.

Gov. Huntsman said, "Thank you for volunteering your time. I salute you on your commitment to serve."



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