Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 27, 2012

Democrats, MSHA ask for more teeth in federal mine law

Associated Press

MORGANTOWN — U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall and other House Democrats say it’s time for Congress to pass stalled legislation that would give the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration more power to prevent mine disasters.

In a Tuesday hearing on Capitol Hill, Republican lawmakers grilled MSHA director Joe Main about the agency’s failings before the 2010 explosion at West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch mine.

Republicans repeatedly cited an internal review that found MSHA could have done more to prevent the disaster that killed 29 men.

Main says MSHA has changed and is changing. But he says he still needs three things — protection for whistleblowers, subpoena power for investigations and stiffer criminal penalties for bad operators.

Rahall argues Congress shouldn’t punish MSHA by withholding lifesaving legal powers because only miners would suffer.