Essay on The Centralia No. 5 Mine Explosion: A Failure in Public Administration

Essay on The Centralia No. 5 Mine Explosion: A Failure in Public Administration

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Centralia Coal Company was owned by Bell & Zoller Coal & Mining Company. Herbert E. Bell was the Chairman and William P. Young was the Vice President. Illinois ranked third in coal production. Four agencies had authority over coal mining at the time; the state of Illinois, the United States Government, Centralia Coal Company and the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). The explosion in Centralia No. 5 occurred on March 25, 1947. Beginning with his appointment in 1941, State Mine Inspector Driscoll O. Scanlan sent inspection reports to the Department of Mines and Minerals (DMM) Director Robert M. Medill. The U.S. Bureau of Mines inspected Centralia No. 5 the first time in September 1942. Findings and recommendations were the same in all reports. Scanlan requested maintenance related to safety issues. The U.S. Bureau of Mines report supported his findings. In all this time nothing was done.
Inspector Scanlan sent reports every three months from 1942 – 1944 repeating recommendations and adding new ones. He considered Centralia No. 5 the worst mine in his district. Coal dust and gas are explosion hazards. Steps can be taken to minimize these concerns. Rock dusting is a method used to localize an explosion. Illinois law requires rock dusting in a seriously dusty mine. Mr. Scanlan was the first line for the miners. He had the authority to close the mine and did not do it. He later mentioned being afraid of losing his job. It was his responsibility as a public administrator to take action.
As part of his campaign for Governor, Dwight Green had promised to enforce mining laws. In 1941 Governor Green appointed Robert Medill as Director of the Department of Mines and Minerals. The Mining Board makes the p...

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...plete report. Before this was done the mine blew up. In the end, the news story that broke was focused on union campaign contributions and not on mine safety.
All levels of protection for the miners failed them. Every agency that was entrusted with their safety had other concerns as priority. Mr. Scanlan submitted true and honest reports of violations over a long period of time but never went that extra step to enforce the law. State authorities should have acted when the initial reports were made. The Union membership was at risk and yet the Union never represented Local 52 nor gave it support when it tried on its own to get state assistance with their grievances. Politics and profit motivated elected officials appointees and the coal company.

Works Cited

Stillman, R.J., (2010), Public Administration Concepts and Cases, Boston, Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

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