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Kline Statement on Congressional Mine Safety Oversight and Investigation Efforts
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. John Kline (R-MN), the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee’s senior Republican member, issued the following statement today regarding ongoing congressional efforts to conduct oversight of underground coal mining safety and investigate compliance with, and enforcement of, federal mine safety laws and regulations:
“The loss of 35 coal miners this year, including the 29 miners who perished in the Upper Big Branch explosion on April 5, provides a painful reminder of the dangers inherent in underground coal mining. While the risks cannot be eliminated completely, Congress has taken repeated steps over the years to mitigate the danger and improve rescue and recovery efforts when accidents occur. The events of this year have led us to the conclusion that congressional oversight is needed to determine whether mine safety laws are being obeyed and enforced.
“Today, the House granted limited deposition authority to the Education and Labor Committee for the purpose of investigating industry compliance with the Mine Act. This law was originally enacted in 1969 and modified with bipartisan reforms in 2006 that stiffen penalties for safety violations and improve underground communications, among other safety-based reforms.
“A comprehensive investigation of mine safety must focus not only on compliance, but on enforcement as well. We need to determine whether federal regulators are exercising the full scope of their authority to identify and correct safety hazards, especially when such violations appear to be escalating in frequency or severity.
“Deposition authority is an extraordinary tool, but when exercised in a responsible manner it can supplement our efforts to promote the safety of mine workers. I look forward to working with Chairman Miller to ensure our Committee’s investigation proceeds in a manner that respects the limited scope of this new authority and does not impede any ongoing investigations.”
NOTE: Kline will travel to Beckley, West Virginia on Monday with other members of the Education and Labor Committee and the state’s congressional delegation for a hearing in which they will receive testimony from family members of some of the miners killed in the Upper Big Branch explosion.
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