State Mine Inspector Debate


TED: OUR 2018 ELECTION COVERAGE CONTINUES TONIGHT WITH THE DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR STATE MINE INSPECTOR. THIS INTERVIEW IS SPONSORED BY THE CITIZENS CLEAN ELECTION COMMITTEE. THE REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE INCUMBANT JOE HEART DECLINED TO PARTICIPATE IN THE DEBATE SO TONIGHT, WE HEAR FROM THE OTHER CANDIDATE, DEMOCRAT BILL PIERCE. WELCOME TO "ARIZONA HORIZON." GOOD TO HAVE YOU.

BILL PIERCE: THANK YOU.

TED: WHY ARE YOU RUNNING FOR STATE MINE INSPECTOR?

BILL PIERCE: WELL, I'M AN ADVOCATE FOR WORKPLACE SAFETY. I WAS NEARLY KILLED ON AN ACCIDENT ON A JOB SITE IN 1985, WHEN I FIRST MOVED OUT HERE. IT WAS DUE TO UNSAFE WORKING CONDITIONS. I'VE REALLY BEEN AN ADVOCATE FOR SAFETY IN THE WORKPLACE AND CLEAN ENVIRONMENT EVER SINCE.

TED: WELL YOU’VE BEEN AN ADVOCATE AND I THINK ACCORDING TO THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC, YOU TOLD THEM YOU DECIDED TO RUN ALMOST ON A LARK.

BILL PIERCE: YEAH, IT KIND OF WAS THAT WAY BECAUSE A FRIEND OF MINE HAD POSTED ON FACEBOOK A COMMENT THAT IF WE COULD GET A DEMOCRAT TO RUN FOR THE ARIZONA STATE MINE INSPECTORS OFFICE, IT WOULD PUT A DEMOCRAT IN EVERY SPOT. WELL HE RAN FOR COUNTY TREASURE BEFORE AND MY BETTER HALF AND I WORKED ON HIS CAMPAIGN, CANVASSING AND STUFF ON HIS BEHALF, SO I POSTED BACK, MAYBE I OUGHT TO THINK ABOUT IT. AND HE SAID WELL, YOU KNOW, THERE'S ONLY TWO POSITIONS IN STATE GOVERNMENT THAT REQUIRE ANY KIND OF PRIOR EXPERIENCE BEFORE YOU RUN FOR IT. HE SAID THAT'S THE STATE MINE INSPECTOR AND THE STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL. I SAID WELL, REMEMBER, JOE, I SAID I'M A RETIRED ENGINEER WITH OVER 40 YEARS IN THE ENGINEERING AND I'VE ALREADY BEEN CERTIFIED THROUGH OSHA AND I WAS THE SUPERVISING ENGINEER ON AN EPA CPMPLIANT LYCHING PAD AT THE SAFFORD MINE SO…

TED: SO THERE'S THE BACKGROUND.

BILL PIERCE: PART OF IT.

TED: YOU HAVE TO HAVE A LEGAL BACKGROUND TO A CERTAIN DEGREE, EXPERIENCE IN RUNNING IN THE MINING INDUSTRY, AND YOU CAN'T WORK FOR A MINING-RELATED COMPANY.

PIERCE: RIGHT.

TED: YOU FOLLOWED ALL THOSE?

BILL PIERCE: YES, AND I NEVER -- I WORKED FOR PRIVATE CONSULTING ENGINEERING FIRM AND FOR MICHIGAN STATE GOVERNMENT.

TED: DO YOU THINK THAT THIS SHOULD BE AN ELECTIVE OFFICE?

BILL PIERCE: WELL, ACTUALLY, IT DOESN'T NEED TO BE. WE'RE THE ONLY STATE IN THE COUNTRY IN WHICH IT IS AN ELECTED OFFICE. IN THE OTHER STATES, USUALLY, IT'S AN APPOINTED, MERIT BASED, AND NONPARTISAN.

TED: WOULD YOU SUPPORT A MOVE TO APPOINTMENTS.

BILL PIERCE: YEAH.

TED: AS FAR AS THE STATE MINE -- I'M GUESSING YOU INSPECT MINES, BUT OTHER THAN THAT, WHAT DOES A STATE MINE INSPECTOR DO.

BILL PIERCE: WELL BESIDES INSPECTING THE MINE FOR FEDERAL SAFTEY VIOLATIONS THROUGH OSHA, THE ARIZONA STATE MINE INSPECTOR IS ALSO RESPONSIBLE FOR LOCATING AND SECURING ANY ABANDONED MINE. WE’RE ALSO REQUIRED TO INVESTIGATED OR ASSIT IN THE INVESTIGATION IN MINING ACCIDENTS THAT HAPPEN AND WATCH OUT FOR OTHER VIOLATIONS AND WARN PEOPLE ABOUT POSSIBLE HAZARDS IN THE COMMUNITY.

TED: THE INFORMATIONAL ASPECT AS WELL, INFORMING MINE OWNERS AND MINE OPERATORS, HEY, THAT DOESN'T LOOK QUITE RIGHT. IS THAT PART OF IT?
BILL PIERCE: OH, YES. YES.

TED: OKAY. SO DOES IT MATTER THAT YOU'RE A DEMOCRAT AND YOUR OPPONENT IS A REPUBLICAN? I'M TRYING TO FIGURE OUT, I'M TRYING TO GRASP THIS OFFICE. WE HAD A DEBATE YEARS AGO, AND THAT'S THE ONLY TIME WE'VE HAD A DEBATE ON THIS PARTICULAR OFFICE. WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES THAT MAKE?

BILL PIERCE: NOT REALLY A LOT. WE'RE NOT A POLICY MAKING OFFICE. THE POLICIES ARE ALREADY SET. WE HAVE TO FOLLOW MSHA REGULATIONS. THEY'RE ALREADY SET IN WASHINGTON D.C. THAT'S ALREADY FEDERAL POLICY, SO THE SAME SAFETY VIOLATION THAT MY OPPONENT WOULD SEE I WOULD HAVE TO SEE. WE WOULD BOTH HAVE TO DO THE SAME EXACT THING, WHO'S MOST RESPONSIBLE FOR CITING IT.

TED: YOU'RE RUNNING AGAINST JOE HART. YOU'RE RUNNING AGAINST HIM, THE INCUMBENT HE’S NOT HERE NOW. WOULD YOU CHANGE ANYTHING? HOW WOULD YOU -- WHY SHOULD VOTERS VOTE FOR YOU?

BILL PIERCE: WELL, ONE OF THE THINGS I'D LIKE TO SEE HAPPEN IS IF YOU WATCH IN THE NEWS AND IN THE MEDIA, YOU NEVER SEE MUCH ABOUT THE MINE INSPECTOR. I WAS REALLY SURPRISED AT HOW MANY PEOPLE DIDN'T REALIZE WE ELECT A MINE INSPECTOR IN ARIZONA, AND WE NEED TO BE MORE RESPONSIVE TO THE PEOPLE, LET THE PEOPLE KNOW. THAT'S ONE OF THE THINGS THAT I'D LIKE TO SEE HAPPEN, LOOKING AT THEIR WEBSITE, AND IT'S NOT REAL EASY TO NAVIGATE, AND THAT'S ONE OF THE THINGS I'D LIKE TO DO IS MAKE SURE THE WEBSITE IS EASY TO NAVIGATE, IT'S MORE USER FRIENDLY. THE PEOPLE CAN LOOK UP AND SEE HOW THE INSPECTIONS ARE DOING BECAUSE WE DON'T GET ANY OF THAT INFORMATION. THE PEOPLE -- THE PEOPLE OF ARIZONA DON'T GET ANY INFORMATION FROM THE MINE INSPECTOR'S OFFICE ON WHAT IS HAPPENING OR WHAT IS GOING ON. WE DON'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THE ISSUES WITH THE MINING UNLESS, SAY, A CHILD FALLS INTO AN ABANDONED MINOR SOMETHING AND IT MAKES THE NIGHT -- MINE OR SOMETHING AND IT MAKES THE NIGHTLY NEWS.

TED: YEAH, WE SURE DO.

BILL PIERCE: I'D LIKE TO HAVE A REGULAR OUTREACH TO THE COMMUNITY SO PEOPLE KNOW. YOU KNOW A LOT OF PEOPLE AREN’T AWARE OF THE FACT THAT ARIZONA PRODUCES NEARLY TWO THIRDS OF ALL THE COPPER PRODUCED IN THE UNITED STATES.

TED: I THINK THAT'S WHAT PEOPLE ARE SURPRISED AT, IS THAT ARIZONA'S HISTORY HAS A LOT OF MINING IN THE HISTORY, BUT THEY'RE NOT -- I THINK PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED TO KNOW HOW MANY MINES ARE IN OPERATION RIGHT NOW, AND HOW MANY ABANDONED MINES ARE -- THOSE ARE DANGEROUS THINGS.

BILL PIERCE: RIGHT NOW, LISTING AT THE FIRST OF THE YEAR I GOT, AND I COULDN'T EVEN FIND IT ON THE STATE'S WEBSITE. I HAD TO GO TO THE FEDERAL WEBSITE TO FIND IT. WE HAVE OVER 400 ACTIVE MINES IN ARIZONA RIGHT NOW. I FOUND A LISTING OF 1,523 KNOWN ABANDONED MINES IN ARIZONA THAT ARE NOT SECURED. THESE ALSO HAVE -- THIS LISTING ALSO HAS APPROXIMATE LOCATIONS FOR EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THEM.

TED: IS YOUR OPPONENT NOT DOING ENOUGH TO -- 'CAUSE HE SAYS HE HAS CLOSED MORE ABANDONED MINES THAN ALL OF HIS PREDECESSORS COMBINED.

BILL PIERCE: WELL, I DON'T KNOW HOW MANY HE'S -- HE'S CLOSED, BUT ONE OF THE BIGGEST PROBLEMS THAT WE HAVE IS A LACK OF A BUDGET. WITH THE BUDGET CUTTING FROM A NUMBER OF YEARS AGO, WE DON'T HAVE ENOUGH INSPECTORS TO EVEN FIND THEM. WE ONLY HAVE FOUR FIELD INSPECTORS NOW. IN 2010, WE HAD, I BELIEVE IT WAS 12.

TED: 12?

BILL PIERCE: YES.

TED: LIKE 12 HUMAN BEINGS RUNNING AROUND WITH THOUSANDS OF MILES, 1,000 PLUS ABANDONED MINES?

BILL PIERCE: YEAH. AND NOW WE'RE DOWN TO FOUR.

TED: FOUR?

BILL PIERCE: YES, STATEWIDE.

TED: SO WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO IF YOU'RE ELECTED.

BILL PIERCE: WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO TRY TO LOBBY THE LEGISLATURE AND THE GOVERNOR, TRY TO LOBBY AND GET FUNDING, MAYBE TAKE A PAGE FROM RED FOR ED. MAKE SOME NOISE. THE PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON.

TED: YOU SEE THIS OFFICE AS INPSECTING MINES, MAINTAINING SAFETY, GETTING THE POSITION OUT, BUT ALSO A POLICY POSITION, MAYBE MAKING SOME NOISE AND MARCHING AND SHOUTING A LITTLE BIT.

BILL PIERCE: IT'S ULTIMATELY A SAFETY ISSUE. IF WE CAN SECURE THE ABANDONED MINES, THERE'LL BE FEWER PEOPLE FALLING INTO THEM. YOU GO OUT HIKING OR CAMPING. NOT THAT LONG AGO, I FOUND ON MSHA'S WEBSITE, A PICKUP TRUCK WITH THREE PEOPLE IN IT GO OVER A RISE. GUESS WHAT WAS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE RISE? AN ABANDONED OPEN PIT MINE. NO MARKINGS- NOTHING. TUMBLED OVER 125 FEET, KILLED TWO OF THE THREE PEOPLE.

TED: WE'VE HEARD ABOUT THINGS IN THE PAST. IT DOESN'T SEEM LIKE WE'VE HEARD AS FREQUENTLY NOW.

BILL PIERCE: THEY ARE NOT BEING REPORTED, NEW FEDERAL REGULATIONS NOW INDICATE THAT THE STATES ARE NO LONGER REQUIRED TO REPORT ABANDONED MINE ACCIDENTS TO THE GOVERNMENT. IT'S OPTIONAL, AND APPARENTLY ARIZONA HAS OPTED OUT OF THAT REQUIREMENT.

TED: WHAT'S THE REASONING BEHIND THAT?

BILL PIERCE: I REALLY DON'T KNOW.

TED: WOULD YOU FIGHT AGAINST SOMETHING LIKE THAT?

BILL PIERCE: YOU'RE DARNED RIGHT. IF IT'S OPTIONAL, I'LL REPORT IT. PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW.

TED: YOU MENTIONED EARLIER THAT YOU HAD SUFFERED AN ACCIDENT IN A MINE. GIVE US YOUR MINING BACKGROUND AND TELL US WHAT HAPPENED HERE.

BILL PIERCE: WELL, THE ACCIDENT WASN'T IN A MINE, BUT MY BACKGROUND IN MINING WAS -- I STARTED MY ENGINEERING CAREER WITH STATE OF MICHIGAN'S DEPARTMENT OF RESEARCH AND TESTING POSITION. I WAS BASICALLY A MATERIAL BUYERS FOR THE STATE OF MICHIGAN AND ALL OF OUR TESTING WAS SOURCE TESTING IN THE MINE. WE HAD A PORTABLE LABORATORY SETUP INSIDE THE MINE TO DO ALL THE TESTING AND THE MATERIALS. THAT'S WHERE WE HAD TO LEARN ABOUT MINE SAFETY AND LEARN HOW TO BE SAFE AROUND MINING AND MINING EQUIPMENT. EVEN THOUGH WE WEREN'T DO BE THE MINING ITSELF, WE WERE AMONG THE PEOPLE THAT WERE. AND THEN AFTER THAT, I WENT INTO THE PRIVATE SECTOR WITH PRIVATE MINING COMPANIES TO BROADEN MY HORIZON IN THE ENGINEERING FEED -- FIELD, BUT STARTED DOING THE SOURCE TESTING FOR MULTIPLE PROJECTS, LARGE INFRASTRUCTURE TYPE PROJECTS. I'D STILL BE INVOLVED WITH THE MINING OPERATIONS AND DOING THE SOURCE TESTING FOR THE MATERIALS FOR THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY. ALL THE WAY UP THROUGH AND LEARNING ALL PHASES OF IT UP THROUGH THE FINISHED PROJECT. AND SO OUT OF 44 YEARS, FIVE MONTHS IN THE ENGINEERING INDUSTRY, PROBABLY CLOSE TO 15 TO 20 YEARS OF THOSE WERE SPENT GOOFING OFF IN THE MINE.

TED: GOOFING -- WELL, I HOPE YOU WEREN'T GOOFING OFF WHEN THE ACCIDENT HAPPENED. WHAT WAS THAT ALL ABOUT?

BILL PIERCE: I TOOK A TEMPORARY JOB WHEN I MOVED OUT HERE IN A COT AN ENGINE HAS A YARD MAN DRIVING A TRACTOR, PULLING THE TRAILER, SETTING THE BALES OUT IN THE PICKUP YARD AND GO GET ANOTHER LOAD. I WOULD HAUL A LOAD AND THEN DROP IT OFF IN THE PICKUP YARD WENT BACK, PULLED UP NEXT TO THE CONVEYOR, I GOT MY TRAILER LINED UP, NO COTTON. WENT IN, THE PLACE WAS BLUE ON THE SMOKE. THAT WAS MY FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH FOR PROFIT COMPANIES AND ARIZONA MINING LAWS. I WAS A NEW BEE TO ARIZONA, I HAD ONLY BEEN HERE ABOUT THREE WEEKS… GO INSIDE, WHAT'S GOING ON? OH, THE COTTON ENGINE IS ON FIRE. WE'RE ON A RURAL COUNTY ISLAND, THEY HAVE TO SUBSCRIBE TO RURAL/METRO AND PAY FOR FIRE SERVICE. OTHERWISE, SINCE THEY'RE NOT A SUBSCRIBER, THEY'RE GOING TO HAVE TO PAY THE COSTS TO PUT OUT THE FIRE. PULL OUT THE GARDEN HOSE, PUT IT OUT YOURSELF. MY COUSIN AND I WENT OUT IN THE SEED PIT. THAT'S AN AUGER UNDER THE COMBING AREA BRINGING THE SEEDS OUT INTO THE PIT. WELL, OF COURSE WITH THE FIRE GOING, THE SEEDS WERE BURNING. SO MY COUSIN AND I HEAD DOWN IN THE SEED PIT, AND WE COME OUT. THE SMOKE'S GETTING SO BAD WE CAN'T STAND IT, SO WE COME BACK OUT, AND I STARTED TO PULL THE TRAP DOOR OVER THE PIT, AND THE FOREMAN HOLLERS NO, JUST LEAVE IT OPEN. YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE TO GO BACK IN THERE. JUST KIND OF STAND BACK. SO WE MOVED OVER, AND ALL OF A SUDDEN A COUPLE MINUTES LATER, THE FOREMAN SAID CAN YOU STEP BACK AND PASS THE LADDER. I STEPPED BACK INTO THE OPEN SEED PIT. I FELL, WENT BACKWARDS DOWN HEADFIRST. SPLIT MY SKULL FROM HERE ALL THE WAY TO THE BASE. I HAD 192 STITCHES IN THE BACK OF MY HEAD. THEY CALLED MY EX-WIFE, TOLD HER I WAS DEAD. SHE WASN'T MY EX AT THE TIME. THEY -- EX-WIFE AT THE TIME. ANY WAY, THEN E THEY REALIZED NO HE'S NOT DEAD. MY COUSIN RUSHES DOWN, PULLS ME OUT OF THERE. AND THE PARAMEDICS ARE CHEWING HIM OUT FOR GOING DOWN THERE. HE COULD HAVE HAD A NECK INJURY, BACK INJURY, HE COULD HAVE PARALYZED HIM. MY COUSIN SAID I HAD A CHOICE. PULL HIM OUT, OR THE SEEDS COMING IN COULD HAVE INCINERATED HIM. WHAT SAVED MY LIFE, JUST BEFORE MY HEAD HIT THE CONCRETE FLOOR, THERE WAS A STAIRCASE. I SHATTERED EVERYTHING FROM HERE ALL THE WAY DOWN HERE AND BACK HERE. THEY HAULED ME TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM OUT IN THE WEST VALLEY, BANDAGED MY HEAD, PUT ME IN A SLING, FILLED ME WITH PERCOCET, AND SENT ME HOME.

TED: AND HERE YOU ARE.

BILL PIERCE: YEAH. THE NEXT DAY, I TOLD MY WIFE, YOU'VE GOT TWO OPTIONS. YOU GET IN THE VAN AND TAKE ME TO A REAL HOSPITAL OR I'M MOVING BACK TO MICHIGAN. SHE AND TWO OF MY COUSINS HELPED ME INTO THE VAN AND GOT ME TO A HOSPITAL. 9.5 MONTHS IN A CAST TIED TIGHT LIKE THIS. EVERYTHING WAS SHATTERED SO BAD, THEY COULDN'T DO SURGERY. THEY WERE USING WEIGHT TO HAVE TO PULL IT BACK TOGETHER. AT FIRST THEY THOUGHT THEY WERE GOING TO HAVE TO AMPUTATE THE ARM. I SAID NO WAY. I'M ORNERY.

TED: YOU'RE ORNERY. AMAZING STORY. I'M GLAD YOU'RE HERE. GOODNESS GRACIOUS

BILL PIERCE: SO AM I.

TED: I BET YOU ARE. BEFORE YOU GO NOW, OBVIOUSLY, SAFETY IS IMPORTANT TO YOU. I WOULD IMAGINE SAFETY ISSUES ARE PRETTY IMPORTANT TO YOUR OPPONENT, AS WELL.

BILL PIERCE: YEAH. HE TALKED ABOUT THAT IN A NEWSPAPER INTERVIEW. I WAS INTERVIEWED AND SO WAS HE A COUPLE OF MONTHS AGO WITH THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC, AND HE MENTIONED A FRIEND OF HIS BEING KILLED IN A MINING ACCIDENT. HE HAD TO GO AND INFORM THE GENTLEMAN'S WIFE. AND I THINK THAT -- I KNOW FROM THE WAY HE TALKED OR THE WAY IT WAS WORDED IN THE INTERVIEW, IT WAS PROBABLY PRETTY TRAUMATIC FOR HIM, TOO. I DON'T THINK I'D WANT TO HAVE TO GO FOR THAT, EITHER.

TED: ALL RIGHT. FOUR OUR DEBATE -- FOR OUR DEBATE, I GIVE A ONE MINUTE OPENING AND CLOSING STATEMENT, I CAN'T GIVE YOU A MINUTE, BUT A RELATIVELY BRIEF STATEMENT FROM YOU, STATE MINING INSPECTOR CANDIDATE.

BILL PIERCE: I'LL JUST RUN THROUGH SOME OF MY CERTIFICATIONS. I'VE BEEN CERTIFIED THROUGH MSHA, THE MINING PORTION OF OSHA. I'VE BEEN CERTIFIED BY OSHA, AND TRAINED BY THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY IN EROSION CONTROL AND GROUNDWATER PROTECTION, AND THE BIGGEST ONE OF ALL THAT WAS NOT REQUIRED BUT I THINK IT'LL BE HANDY, I'M A RADIATION SAFETY OFFICER TRAINED BY THE NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION.

TED: ALL RIGHT. WE'VE GOT TO STOP YOU THERE. THAT WAS A GREAT STORY. THANK YOU FOR TALKING TO US.

BILL PIERCE: THANK YOU. GOOD BEING HERE.

TED: BILL PIERCE, STATE MINING INSPECTOR CANDIDATE. TOMORROW, IT’S THE JOURNALIST’S ROUND TABLE. WE'LL DISCUSS HOW THE BRETT KAVANAUGH NOMINATION IS IMPACTING OUR WORLD, AND MORE, FRIDAY, RIGHT HERE ON THE "JOURNALISTS' ROUNDTABLE." I'M TED SIMONS. THANK YOU FOR JOINING US. YOU HAVE A GREAT EVENING.

We hear from Democratic State Mine Inspector candidate Bill Pierce in a show sponsored by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission. The Republican candidate, Joe Hart, declined to participate in a debate.

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Democrat Bill Pierce

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