Kaiser hearings on hold

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 22, 1999

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / September 22, 1999

CONVENT – A ruling is expected in early October and could have the effect of stalling the Kaiser Aluminum explosion hearings until further notice.

Hearings before U.S. District Judge Carl J. Barbier in New Orleans arescheduled through Sept. 30, with arguments and motions to be heard overseveral days, according to a spokesman of the U.S. Mine Safety and HealthAdministration (MSHA).

Since the Sept. 8 start of the MSHA public hearings on the July 5 Kaiserplant explosion, 25 subpoenaed witnesses from Kaiser’s management and supervisors have failed to appear, according to the panel chairman, Tony Oppegard.

Kaiser supervisor Dennis Haas did testify on Sept. 15, the sole exceptionto the parade of Kaiser management who did not.

Oppegard said Kaiser’s attorneys argued Friday for termination of the hearings until new procedures could be developed and for protective orders and injunctive relief from the outstanding subpoenas.

Thus far, Oppegard continued, 18 subpoenas are still outstanding but Barbier did order MSHA on Friday to inform those potential witnesses they have 14 days notice prior to having to appear. Oppegard noted that theearlier round of witnesses were subpoenaed on Aug. 18, some three weeksprior to their scheduled appearances.

“We’re going to comply with the court’s instructions,” Oppegard said.

The MSHA panel began hearing witnesses on Sept. 8. So far, only ninewitnesses have testified, including three strikers, four replacement workers, an employee of Harmony Contractors who provided the replacement workers on the heels of the Sept. 30, 1998 walkout, andDennis Haas.

Should the court rule in favor of MSHA’s arguments, more hearings could be scheduled as soon as the afternoon of Oct. 12, Oppegard noted.

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