On November 15th, 2017, David Zatezalo was confirmed as the new Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Mine Safety and Health Administration. The Senate voted 52 for and 46 against to confirm Mr. Zatezalo, as the vote went along party lines, with Republicans voting in favor of the confirmation. During his confirmation process, Mr. Zatezalo emphasized his intention to expand compliance assistance and educational initiatives, while seeking more streamlined and consistent enforcement efforts. Senator Joe Manchin (D) from Mr. Zatezalo’s home state of West Virginia voted against the confirmation, citing the poor MSHA violation history of the Eagle No. 1 Mine in West Virginia while Mr. Zatezalo was the mine owner’s chairman.
Mr. Zatezalo’s background as a mining executive will be in stark contrast to his predecessor, Joe Main, who led MSHA following his tenure as the President of the United Mine Workers of America. Under Mr. Main’s leadership, MSHA enforcement efforts were emphasized, while compliance assistance and education were implemented less fervently as a mechanism to improve mine safety.