House Dems load up, push through, mine legislation

July 22, 2010

A bill intended to improve mine safety and enhance the Occupational Safety and Health Act passed out of a House Education and Labor committee Wednesday.

Renamed the Robert C. Byrd Miner Safety and Health Act of 2010 (H.R. 5663) in honor of the West Virginia senator and mine safety proponent who died earlier this year, the bill moved to the full House for consideration following a 30-17 vote. The bill, which grants new powers to the Mine Safety and Health Administration, was proposed in response to the Upper Big Branch Mine-South catastrophe in West Virginia last April.

During a committee markup session, Republicans objected to several aspects of the bill, including revising the OSH Act to strengthen whistleblower protections and penalties. However, attempts at introducing amendments to either wholly replace the bill or toss out various provisions failed.

The new bill -- which already featured provisions from the Protecting America's Workers Act (H.R. 2067) -- was amended to include the entire Ensuring Worker Safety Act (H.R. 4864), a bill that seeks to resolve flaws in state-run occupational safety and health plans and federal oversight of those plans.