Students from the Pro Bono Initiative program at the University of Utah S. J. Quinney College of Law made major research contributions to the report of the Utah Mine Safety Commission that was presented to the Governor on Wednesday.
Gov. Jon M. Huntsman, Jr. created the Commission last August in the aftermath of the Crandall Canyon Mine disaster and appointed Professor Scott M. Matheson, Jr. of the Quinney College as chair. The Commission was charged to study and make recommendations about the state’s role in coal mine safety, accident prevention, and accident response.
With limited staffing, Professor Matheson sought student volunteers from the Pro Bono Initiative, a law school program whose primary goal is to emphasize the fundamental role of public service in the legal profession. “We had a tremendous response,” Matheson said. “The law students researched safety programs in the coal mining states as well as other issues. They made a significant contribution to the project, and we are all grateful to them.”
Students were given the opportunity to work hands-on with local and national leaders in mine safety, including the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor that administers the provisions of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977. After hitting several barriers in finding comprehensive data regarding mine safety in other states with underground coal mines, the students helped develop a state mining survey, which they used to collect information about twelve different states. The resulting compilation may be “the most comprehensive state-by-state comparison of mining practice and regulation in existence,” says Philip Wormdahl, a second-year law student and one of thirteen student participants.