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Main: MSHA has improved, but new legislation still needed

March 4, 2011

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Washington – The Mine Safety and Health Administration has made internal improvements in the wake of the Upper Big Branch Mine-South tragedy, but some necessary changes will require new legislation, MSHA administrator Joseph A. Main recently told congressional leaders.

Main testified March 3 before the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s Workforce Protections Subcommittee on recent regulatory and enforcement actions MSHA has taken.

Responding to concerns from some committee members about recent audits that indicated poor operation at the agency, Main said MSHA has implemented changes that include new training for supervisors and a complete review of the inspector program.

Despite the improvements the agency has taken internally, some necessary measures fall outside MSHA’s jurisdiction and require legislative changes, Main said. “There’s only so much we can do through regulations,” he said.

Main called on Congress to improve the pattern-of-violations statute, simplify the injunctive relief statute, strengthen penalty provisions for violations and draft additional whistleblower protection legislation.

Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), subcommittee chair, favors mine safety reform, but expressed a desire to wait for the Upper Big Branch investigations to be completed. Main said those results could be several months away.

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