October 3, 2011

Grading Our Government

By Therese Dunphy

If the industry were giving government entities a grade card this fall, it would be an interestingly mixed report. Consider important issues facing our government officials and determine how you would rate them.

In terms of transportation funding, Congress has been unable to do more than pass stop-gap measures, despite urging from President Obama for long-term bill. While Republicans are finally beginning to admit that additional funding is necessary, it appears that this project is going to be turned in late — two and a half years late. (Sounds like a CBS sitcom.) Grade: C. Sadly, late work seems to be the average.

The American Jobs Act could help fund construction projects as an interim measure, but it remains to be seen if all the folks involved can demonstrate qualities such as character and an ability to work together to pass this seemingly bi-partisan measure. These students seem to be more interested in fighting between players than winning the game. (See AggBeat, page 4.) Grade: Incomplete.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has circumvented public notice and comment with regards to requirements that apply to continuity and resistance testing of cables and power cords. The agency is supposed to develop regulations using sections 101 and 508 of the Mine Act, which require public notice and allow for public comment before a final rule is developed. But MSHA may have found a nifty loophole as it uses Program Policy Letters to change regulatory requirements, then incorporates those changes into subsequent Program Policy Manuals. (See Rock Law, page 36). Grade: D.

The Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission has reviewed MSHA’s actions on this matter twice, with differing opinions. In 1994, Administrative Law Judge Hodgdon made the right call and ordered the Secretary to provide notice and comment for rulemaking, but she opted not to do so. Earlier this year, Administrative Law Judge Paez described the change as an interpretive matter and suggested that the time that passed between the two cases provided the operator with notice of the intended rule change. This is an alarming precedent that flouts the intent of the Mine Act. Grade: F.

In today’s business environment, those who don’t meet — or exceed — their performance expectations often find themselves unemployed. As November elections near, consider the performance of your government officials. If they aren’t doing the job we hired them to do, give them a failing grade card and their walking papers.

3 things I learned from this issue:

1. Blasting can be treated as the primary crushing with mechanical crushing serving as a conditioner, page 21.

2. On average, higher levels of green house gases are released by transporting aggregates than producing them, page 26.

3. If a hydraulic hammer’s hose jerks violently, it may indicate low nitrogen pressure, page 30.

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