Mine safety advocate Sen. Robert Byrd dies at 92

Mine workers lost a powerful ally this week when Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) died on Monday. He was 92.

The longest-serving senator in Congress's history, Byrd worked to improve mine safety and health in a number of ways. In 2006, he co-sponsored the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act. In 2010, Byrd wrote provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that expanded treatment and benefits for miners with pneumoconiosis -- or "black lung" disease.

Byrd was known as a fiery orator despite his age. During a subcommittee hearing in May, the senator directed his ire over the Upper Big Branch Mine-South explosion not only at the mine's owner but also at Mine Safety and Health Administration chief Joseph A. Main, grilling both men on the April 5 catastrophe that killed 29 workers.

"Sen. Byrd dedicated his entire life to making things better for coal miners everywhere," United Mine Workers of America President Cecil E. Roberts said in a statement. "All of us from the coalfields have lost our best friend in Robert C. Byrd."

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