Congressmen Renew Push for Tougher Federal Mine Safety Laws

March 26, 2013

With five coal mining fatalities in West Virginia so far this year, Democratic U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall is renewing his push for tougher federal laws.

He and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., are co-sponsoring a new version of legislation that’s languished in the Republican-controlled House for more than two years.

Rahall says the families of 29 men killed in the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine disaster in southern West Virginia are also still waiting for Congress to respond with tougher regulations for industry.

His bill would require mine operators to maintain records of their rock dust purchases so regulators can verify they’re properly addressing the constant hazard of explosive coal dust. Accumulations of coal dust and methane fueled the UBB blast.

The bill would also require the Mine Safety and Health Administration to develop a staffing succession plan, ensuring it retains a sufficient number of trained personnel.

Another provision would let the immediate relatives of mine disaster victims designate a representative to closely monitor and participate in accident investigations.

The bill would also expand MSHA’s subpoena powers and toughen penalties for providing advance warning of inspections.

Rahall also wants to require creation of an independent investigation panel with subpoena power for any accident involving three or more deaths.

“While no piece of legislation can remove all of the dangers inherent in coal mining,” Rahall said, “we have a responsibility to advance sensible improvements in our national mine health and safety program that we know can save lives.”

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