09.18.07

ENZI SAYS MINE SAFETY INVESTIGATION MUST BE THOROUGH, NON-POLITICAL

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), Ranking Member ofthe Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, todaysaid that the investigation of the accident at the Crandall Canyon Mine in Utahmust be thorough and unflinching, but must also be rational and non-political.Noting that the accident has now resulted in eight separate investigationsof both the accident itself, and the performance of the federal Mine Safety andHealth Administration (MSHA), Enzi said: “The Utah accident, and the actions ofall involved, require careful, thorough and objective review, and appropriateaction, if warranted. Our collective responsibilities demand this, and those whoselives were lost deserve nothing less. We must proceed on the basis of facts, butmerely multiplying the number of investigations does not insure that we obtainthe necessary information faster, or better. In fact, it has exactly the oppositeresult.” MSHA has the statutory responsibility to investigate the cause of suchaccidents and to pursue law enforcement options in the event any violations arediscovered. The Solicitor of Labor has publicly warned that current parallelinvestigations could well compromise the integrity of MSHA’s law enforcementefforts and jeopardize its ability to hold anyone legally accountable in the eventthat violations of the law are found. “The investigators need to be able to do their job. We need to step backand not take actions that might interfere with their efforts to investigate thistragedy,” Enzi said. Today, Senator Enzi, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Chairman of theHELP Committee, Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and Senator Orrin Hatch (RUT),sent a letter to Gordon S. Heddell, Inspector General of the Department ofLabor, endorsing the view that the initial investigation of the accident and itscauses should be conducted by MSHA, and that any issues regarding MSHA’sperformance should be fully reviewed by the independent Office of the InspectorGeneral. “These two entities possess the necessary assets, personnel, statutoryauthority and expertise to conduct prompt and meaningful reviews. Indeed, thisresponsibility was given to them by Congress,” Enzi said. “There is more thanadequate opportunity for Congress to exercise its oversight responsibilities oncethose with the acknowledged expertise in mining issues complete their work.Congress can also act if there’s any evidence that this work is not being properlyand aggressively pursued. However, there is absolutely no evidence that this isthe case. For the present, the best thing we can do is to get out of the experts’way”. Enzi noted the need for constructive bipartisanship, and the importance ofproceeding in a non-political way. “All of us with workplace safety responsibilities must work together,remembering always that those who lost their lives in Utah, and their families thatcontinue to feel the pain of that loss, are real people,” Enzi said. “We must neverallow their loss to become the occasion for seizing political advantage, or theopportunity for grabbing headlines. That would be beyond reprehensible, and adisservice to the memories of the lost. What we must do is disregard politics, andproceed in the most expeditious and rational way to develop the facts that willguide our actions. We honor those who have been lost best by working to makefuture tragedies less likely.” A copy of the letter from Senator Enzi, Senator Kennedy, SenatorIsakson, and Senator Hatch follows. ####

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