03.31.11

Enzi Questions Record of Mine Safety Agency – Seeks Better Use of Taxpayer Dollars

WASHINGTON, D.C. – During a hearing today on improving mine safety, Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Ranking Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, questioned the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA) record of enforcement, after learning that MSHA knew of problems at the Upper Big Branch mine and failed to use the full extent of its authority to improve safety there.  A witness at today’s hearing from the U.S. Department of Labor Inspector General’s office described those failures in detail.  

Senator Enzi advocated better use of MSHA resources.  “Taxpayers have spent thousands of dollars training MSHA inspectors to identify serious, life-threatening hazards and uncover malfeasance,” said Senator Enzi.  “Why do we send them around to the safest mines on the planet multiple times a year to write citations for unflushed toilets and trash can lids that are ajar?"

Senator Enzi noted in his home state of Wyoming, the mining industry supports about 43,000 jobs both directly and indirectly.  Enzi stated that mining jobs are good positions that pay 86 percent higher than the average wage in the state and will never be outsourced. 

"Talk to almost any U.S. coal miner and you will hear that the industry does feel that this Administration’s policies are threatening the industry’s future,” Senator Enzi said.  “Although the basis for the concern goes well beyond MSHA and the subject of this hearing, it is worth mentioning because safety regulations won’t matter if there are no jobs to regulate. I hope my colleagues share my interest in not only keeping these jobs in America, but making them safer.  This goal can be achieved if we include stakeholders in policy discussions, work to find solutions that address their valid concerns and agree to do the possible, instead of holding out for political victories that will be difficult to achieve.” 

Senator Enzi worked with former HELP Committee Chairman Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), Senator John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) to author the MINER Act in 2006, which represented the first major changes to the Mine Act in a generation.  The MINER Act advanced mine safety technology across the board and has helped to better prepare mines to deal with emergencies. 

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