Mine Safety Bill Defeated

Friday, December 17, 2010
Nine months after the worst coal mining disaster in decades, the U.S. House of Representatives has squandered an opportunity to strengthen federal regulation of mine operations.
The Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act, named after the longtime senator from West Virginia, was defeated in the closing days of Congress’ lame-duck session after 27 Democrats and all but one Republican (Walter Jones of North Carolina) refused to support the measure. A vote to suspend debate on the bill needed two-thirds support. Although the vote in favor was 214-193, the majority was not enough to meet the threshold.
The bill would have increased penalties for serious safety violations, granted more protection for whistleblowers and would have made it easier to close problem mines.
The mining industry managed to kill the legislation despite spending less money on lobbying this year ($21 million) than previous ones. It did receive help from the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers in defeating the plan.
The industry handed out $3.7 million in campaign contributions during this year’s election, with 71% going to Republicans.
Last April, 29 coal miners were killed at West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch mine, prompting a slew of outrage as well as promises of new federal powers for mine regulators.
Forty-eight coal miners have died on the job in the U.S. this year—the most since 1992, when 55 coal miners were killed.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Effort to Give Feds More Clout on Mine Safety Fails (by Daniel Malloy, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)


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