On August 21st, Secretary Alexander Acosta appointed his former chief of staff, Capitol Hill veteran Wayne Palmer, as acting Assistant Secretary of Mine Safety and Health. Palmer’s replacement at the Department of Labor, Nicholas Geale (who is also the Department’s acting Solicitor), stated that Palmer is from Pennsylvania and has “mining in his family’s background.” Palmer’s political experience includes working for Senators Rick Santorum (R-PA) and George Voinovich (R-OH), as well as lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry.
Department of Labor spokesman Eric Holland said Acosta “is confident that Mr. Palmer’s abilities and government experience will complement the eventual nominee’s deep industry expertise. In the meantime, Mr. Palmer will collaborate with senior career staff, who bring decades of experience to the table, on immediate priorities to improve the safety and health conditions for all American miners.”
Then on Saturday (September 2nd), the White House announced that President Trump would be nominating David Zatezalo to run the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Mr. Zatezalo was previously the CEO of Rhino Resources, a Kentucky-based coal company. The administration noted his looming nomination along with more than three dozen others in a Labor Day weekend press release. According to a biography released by the White House, Zatezalo started out as a miner in 1974, then worked as a mine foreman before becoming an executive. He received a degree in Mining Engineering from West Virginia University and an MBA from Ohio University.
Over his career, Mr. Zatezalo worked for Consolidation Coal Company, Southern Ohio Coal Company, and Windsor Coal Company. Most recently, between 2007 and 2014, Zatezalo served in a number of roles at Rhino Resources, including as its COO, president and CEO. He is the past chairman of the Ohio Coal Association and a member of Mine Rescue Veterans of Pittsburgh.Several insiders have noted that the confirmation process for Mr. Zatezalo could take months to complete.