You are hereHuffington Post: Mine Safety Bill's Defeat: How Industry And Inattention Killed Overhaul Prompted By Tragedy

Huffington Post: Mine Safety Bill's Defeat: How Industry And Inattention Killed Overhaul Prompted By Tragedy


"Every mine law ever wrote has been written in blood, but this time even that wasn't enough" - Fred Burgess, whose stepson died in the Upper Big Branch mine explosion in April.

December 14, 2010- In the wake of a tragic mine explosion in West Virginia resulting in many deaths, members of Congress from both parties push to toughen mine safety laws and increase penalties for habitual violators. The bill passes the Senate by unanimous content and sails through the House before landing on the president's desk and being signed into law.

That was 2006's MINER Act, prompted by the Sago mine explosion in which 13 miners died without access to crucial life-saving equipment. Despite criticism from mine-safety advocates that it didn't go far enough to prevent accidents from occurring in the first place, the law represented a major overhaul of rules to help miners after an accident. "We honor the memory of all lost miners today, that's what we're doing signing this bill," said President Bush. "We make this promise to American miners and their families, we'll do everything possible to prevent mine accidents and make sure you're able to return safely to your loved ones."

Since then, several congressional attempts to address shortcomings in the act by controlling coal-dust levels in the mines and making it easier to shut down dangerous sites have stalled in the face of opposition from the mining industry.

But after the worst mining disaster in decades killed 29 at West Virginia's Upper Big Branch mine last April, prompting outrage that impotent federal regulators were unable to close dozens of mines that had racked up thousands of safety and health violations, lawmakers in both parties vowed to make sure such a tragedy never occurs again. So far in 2010, 48 coal miners have died on the job in the U.S. -- the most since 1992, when 55 coal miners were killed.

Despite widespread media coverage and passionate speeches by politicians promising swift action, a bill to improve miner safety and health took eight months to get to the floor of the House, where it was quietly defeated last Wednesday afternoon, failing to reach the two-thirds majority needed to pass. The measure would have made it easier to shut down problem mines, increased penalties for serious safety violations and offered more protection for whistleblowers. Every single Republican but one and 27 Democrats voted against it.

Relatives of miners who died at the Upper Big Branch were devastated by the defeat of the legislation.

FULL STORY HERE:

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