Feb 15 2006
-Praises Recent Notice of Emergency Regulations, But Also Calls For More Action-
Washington, DC -- In an effort to accelerate mine safety reforms by the Department of Labor, Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV (D-WV) today called on Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao to use her existing authority to make coal mining safer in West Virginia and across the country.
Last week, the Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) noticed its intention to use an emergency temporary standard that will bring about better rescue operations for miners, but the Department’s temporary action does not go nearly as far as legislation introduced last week by Rockefeller, Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WV), and the rest of the West Virginia congressional delegation.
In his letter to Secretary Chao, Rockefeller wrote, “The mine safety improvements you have announced are very welcome news to me and to the brave men and women working in mines and West Virginia and around the country, but I hope you will agree that your proposed changes constitute only a first and very basic step toward an adequate level of safety for America’s miners. To continue on this path, I would suggest using your existing statutory authority to expedite action on all provisions in the legislation I introduced jointly with Senator Byrd and our West Virginia House colleagues earlier this month.”
MSHA’s temporary standard doesn’t go nearly as far as the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act, introduced in the Senate by Rockefeller and Byrd. MSHA’s action requires more oxygen-generating self-rescuers for mines, the training of miners to better enable them to change from one self-rescuer to another, and the construction of lighted or reflective “lifelines” to signal escape routes for miners in the event of accidents in the mine. Additionally, MSHA would define companies’ responsibility to “immediately contact” the agency in the event of an accident or occurrence.