Lax Federal Regulations and the Sago Mine Disaster Senior news analyst Daniel Schorr comments on what he sees as a connection between lax government regulation under the Bush administration and the Sago Mine disaster in West Virginia.

Lax Federal Regulations and the Sago Mine Disaster

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DANIEL SCHORR:

The West Virginia legislature has announced an investigation of the Sago Mine disaster. And the US Congress will undoubtedly soon follow.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: What can be noted at this stage is that the accident that took the lives of the 12 miners occurred against a background of deregulatory zeal fostered by the Bush administration and especially by the no longer House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. DeLay has called the Environmental Protection Agency a government gestapo, and he's been called `Congressman Dereg.' Colleagues have said he has embarked on a jihad against regulation. The National Journal said his zest for deregulation dated back to his encounters with federal inspectors when he ran a pest control business in Houston.

Direct connection between lax regulation and accidents may be hard to establish, but The Charleston Gazette and The Washington Post are among the newspapers that have reported a record of lenient enforcement at the Sago Mine, which last year was cited 200 times for a variety of safety violations. The US Mine Safety and Health Administration has gone very easy on the International Coal Group, the owners of the Sago Mine. The biggest fine it's had to pay is $440. The deregulatory attitude of the government was evident in the drop in referrals in all coal mines for possible criminal action from 38 to 12 last year. The Bush administration pursued a policy of forging a cooperative relationship between the mine operators and the safety administration. Most of the regulations proposed during the Clinton administration were dropped by President Bush soon after coming into office.

The federal and state investigations may take months, perhaps years to complete. Today one can only raise the question of whether the Bush-DeLay passion for deregulation and lax treatment of violators had any connection with the disaster. This is Daniel Schorr.

NORRIS: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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