Dems reintroduce Byrd mine safety bill in House

Washington – House Democrats on April 15 reintroduced legislation to expand the powers of the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Named after the late West Virginia congressman and mine safety advocate, the Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act (H.R. 1579) would retool the pattern-of-violations system MSHA uses against recalcitrant mine owners, expand the agency's subpoena powers, strengthen penalties and authorize the independent investigation of serious mine incidents.

The original safety bill was introduced shortly after a devastating mine explosion at Upper Big Branch Mine-South in West Virginia killed 29 miners in April 2010.

"Though we are still awaiting final reports from the investigation into the Upper Big Branch mine disaster, we already know many of the key factors that contributed to that disaster," bill sponsor Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) said in a press release.

On March 31, MSHA administrator Joseph A. Main told a Senate committee that although the agency has worked to close gaps in enforcement, some shortcomings could be solved only through new legislation.

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