Rahall, other Dems trying again on mine safety push - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Rahall, other Dems trying again on mine safety push

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Lawmakers are again attempting to push forward on comprehensive mine safety reform that has failed to pass since first introduced shortly after the 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine.

The new bill, the Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act of 2014 includes a few changes since similar legislation was first introduced.

"Less than a year ago, we dedicated a memorial to the 29 lives that were lost in the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster, and as we approach the third anniversary of that terrible tragedy we rededicate ourselves preventing such a catastrophe from occurring again," Rahall said. "While no piece of legislation can remove all of the dangers inherent in coal mining, we have a responsibility to advance sensible improvements in our national mine health and safety program that we know can save lives."

Rahall joined Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., to introduce that bill which aims to require rock dust purchase records, increased civil penalties for targeted mine violations and expansion of whistleblower protections. The bill also gives family members of victims a chance to appoint a representative in mine safety investigations.

"Tragedy has already visited our coalfield communities far too many times this year," Rahall said.  "We must not wait for further loss of life from a preventable tragedy to act to bolster our mine safety laws that we know are inadequate.  This legislation is an important step in making good on an obligation we have to health and safety of our courageous miners and their families." 

The bill also targets advance notice, strengthening rock dust standards and gives federal mine safety officials ability to subpoena witnesses for investigations. An independent investigation panel appointed by the National Institutes of Occupation Safety and Health to independently investigate mine accidents would also be created.