Mine Safety, An Issue for the Administration
By Matt Murray
Published: October 12, 2010
After the worst mining accident in forty years, the Obama administration made it one of their top priorities to clear up the back log of litigation from safety violations issued to mine owners and operators, reports the Washington Post. Nine miners died in the West Virginia mine last April, the immediate response was to tighten up safety regulations enforcement and expedite the appeal process so that standards are met in a timely manner. The number of violations in queue for appeal has grown since the disaster. Mine owners and operators are fighting back harder than ever in response to the increased number of violations.
Often, when mine owners are cited for violations that led to the death of a miner they will appeal the violation. Critics of the current mining regulations are calling for an overhaul of a system created by and for the benefit of the mine owners. The government is hoping to chip away at the current back log of appeals when it reviews a pilot project being tested in several coal districts.
Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), who sponsored the Miner Safety and Health Act that passed the House in July, says that mining companies are not only clogging the system but also using their influence to prevent meaningful reforms from getting through Congress.
Right now, mine operators are not paying much of a price for being a repeat violator. They created this system, and they are continuing to game it. They don’t want it to change,” he said. “Clearly, the process in Congress has broken down in favor of the mine owners, the lawbreakers.”
A judge in Pennsylvania rejected a settlement bid by mine owners Consul, the citation was for loose coal build up along conveyor belts a scenario that can produce explosions. This was the 180th time they have been cited for this same violation over the past two years. The original violation was set at $11,306, the settlement bid proposed was $207. The judge went on to explain that that given the mine’s history with this particular violation and no justifiable reason for the significant reduction he would have to reject the bid.