MSHA asks Congress to fix mine safety laws

April 6, 2011

Washington – As Mine Safety and Health Administration chief Joseph A. Main requested Congress to fix current mine safety law and provide his agency with more power, senate members questioned whether MSHA was using its current powers to the fullest extent.

With the one-year anniversary of the Upper Big Branch Mine-South tragedy looming over the March 31 hearing convened by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, ranking member Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) said MSHA knew of problems at UBB but failed to use the extent of its authority to improve safety at the West Virginia mine. He also questioned the agency’s use of current resources, suggesting MSHA issues superfluous citations to the “safest mines on the planet.”

Main told the committee his agency was investigating why MSHA did not use all of its tools in the lead-up to the April 5, 2010, disaster. He said the agency was making improvements to its pattern-of-violations process, but called the POV program “broken” and asked Congress to take steps to improve it and other aspects of the current law. “Since Upper Big Branch, we have learned there are systemic flaws in the law that only Congress can fix,” he said.