House Committee on Education and Labor
U.S. House of Representatives

Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon
Ranking Member

Fiscally responsible reforms for students, workers and retirees.



Press Release

April 15, 2010

CONTACT: Alexa Marrero
or Brian Newell
(202) 225-4527

Kline: Investigation of Mining Tragedy Must Examine MSHA’s Enforcement Failures

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. John Kline (R-MN), the top Republican on the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee, today said federal and state investigations of the tragic explosion that killed 29 miners in the Upper Big Branch mine must carefully scrutinize the actions of the federal mine safety agency, particularly amid troubling indications that the agency failed to increase oversight of the mine despite repeat violations. 

“It has been almost four years since Congress acted in a bipartisan way to strengthen mine safety laws and impose tough new penalties on mines that violate basic safety requirements,” said Kline. “In the aftermath of the worst mining disaster in nearly four decades, we must ask: Why didn’t federal officials enforce the law to the fullest extent?” 

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is responsible for enforcing federal mine safety laws, which allow for increasingly tough sanctions on mines that demonstrate a “pattern of violations.” This standard for increasing penalties on repeat offenders – which could ultimately include mine closure – was first established in the Mine Act of 1977 and reinvigorated in 2006 with the overwhelming bipartisan passage of the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) Act. 

“In the coming days, weeks, and months, our nation will be searching for answers – trying to determine what went wrong and ensuring all parties are committed to preventing such a tragedy from ever happening again,” said Kline. “Those who would jump to conclusions or attempt to divert blame do a disservice to the families who just want to know what went wrong. That’s why our review must be comprehensive, looking not only at the laws on the books, but at how those laws are being implemented, enforced, and followed on the ground.” 

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