Just over a year after the Sago Mine disaster brought international attention to the issue of coal mine safety, some progress has been made toward protecting miners. But, most experts agree, a variety of factors have kept progress from moving as quickly and as completely as it could.

To examine the questions behind why this is the caseand what all the particular players can do to hasten the deployment of potentially life-saving technologies and techniquesthe West Virginia Law Review and the West Virginia University College of Law are presenting a lecture series,Thinking Outside of the Box: A Post-Sago Look at Coal Mine Safety,at 1 p.m. Wednesday, March 21, at the College of Law.

It will be the first offering in a lecture series that will run through the Spring 2008 semester.

A blue-ribbon panel will offer a full spectrum of insights into the current state of mine safety and the short-term prospects for change. Questions to be raised will focus on enforcement, technology, best practices, the proper role of regulation and more.

Some of the participants include:

  • Edward Clair , Associate Solicitor for Mine Safety and Health in the U.S. Department of Labor since 1987, will help to kick off the lecture series and the afternoon presentation by raising the important issues to be addressed. Prior to serving as Associate Solicitor, Clair was the Deputy Associate Solicitor and Counsel for Coal Mine Standards and Legal Advice.
  • Davitt McAteer , Vice President of Sponsored Programs at Wheeling Jesuit University, will provide another perspective in identifying the issues to be addressed. McAteer served as the Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health at the United States Department of Labor under the Clinton Administration. Recently, he was asked by West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin to serve as personal advisor and conduct an independent investigation into the cause or causes of the Sago Mine Disaster and the Aracoma Alma No. 1 Mine Fire, both of which occurred in January 2006.
  • Gregory Wagner , Visiting Professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and Senior Advisor for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health will deliver the keynote address. He will discuss his experiences working with the NIOSH WorkLife Initiative and the value of thinking outside of the box in addressing the important issues surrounding coal mine safety and health.

Weve pulled together a great group of speakers to help us kick off a very ambitious lecture series,said Brienne Greiner, Editor-in-Chief of Volume 109 of the West Virginia Law Review.

Protecting the health and well-being of those in the coal industry is in the interest of miners, regulators, mine owners and investors, and anyone who depends on this vital energy source.By bringing together the best minds thinking about this issue from across disciplines, we believe that we can create a replicable model to significantly enhance safety,Greiner said.

Mary Claire Johnson, the incoming Editor-in-Chief of Volume 110 of the West Virginia Law Review, agreed.

We want to ensure that all perspectives have a voice,she said.

College of Law Associate Dean Joyce McConnell said the panel will dig for positive change in the mining industry.

This symposium is unprecedented in its interdisciplinary scope and comparative approach,McConnell said.We believe that by bringing together the best minds in these fields for an open and forward-looking dialogue, we will contribute significantly to solving challenges of national and international importance.

Anne Marie Lofaso, a College of Law professor who is also helping organize the panel, said the event will make for aunique opportunity,since everyone from lawyers to engineers, economists, politicians and representatives from labor and industry will be involved.

Its a chance to shed light on a problem that continues to reverberate in the American collective conscience,she said.

And thats the idea, College of Law Dean John Fisher II said.

We recognize the importance of the coal industry to West Virginia,Fisher said.We hope to be able to shed some new light on the issue of coal mine safety and to help improve safety and efficiency in the production of coal.

For more information contact the West Virginia Law Review at wvlrev@mail.wvu.edu or 304-293-2301.