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Talking Points: H.R. 2768, the S-MINER Act
The S-MINER Act is premature at best – at worst, it could undermine ongoing safety efforts.
• Republicans are committed to mine safety. Republicans are proud to have been part of the 2006 MINER Act and are committed to seeing that law fully and forcefully implemented.
• The best way to ensure that miners are protected is to allow the MINER Act to work. In fact, the law is already working. As evidence, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) assessed $40.4 million in penalties in FY 2007, up 100 percent since fiscal 2006 and up 228 percent since fiscal 2003.
• The S-MINER Act is an ill-conceived attempt to rewrite the first comprehensive mine safety reforms in a generation. The 2006 MINER Act passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, as well as support from both industry and labor.
• Rather than layering on new requirements and regulations, we should be aggressively focused on successful implementation of the reforms enacted through the MINER Act.
• The MINER Act included an aggressive timetable for implementation of comprehensive reforms. We are not yet two years into the new law, yet great progress has already been made.
• The S-MINER Act would undo the progress made in the past 19 months by going back to the drawing board on mine safety.
• In the year and a half since passage of the MINER Act, each of the concerns raised by opponents of the MINER Act has been addressed by MSHA.
Democrats have REJECTED Republican efforts to enhance mine safety.
• During the Education and Labor Committee markup of H.R. 2768, the S-MINER Act, Republicans offered an amendment to allow miners to participate in safety teams.
• The amendment was defeated 25-15, with every Democrat present voting AGAINST the proposal to include miners in the safety process.
• Democrats are standing in the way of efforts to empower miners by engaging them directly in safety planning and procedures.
The S-MINER Act threatens jobs.
• The S-MINER Act imposes a $1 billion unfunded mandate on the mining industry, placing in jeopardy the jobs of the very miners we are trying to protect.
• In the immediate aftermath of Crandall Canyon, an article published in the New York Times highlighted the fears of miners who believed that policymakers would respond to the tragedy with burdensome new mandates that would threaten their jobs.
Without hesitation, just about all of those in attendance said more mine regulation would ruin their livelihoods. “I don’t want to see their jobs go down the drain,” said Lee Cratsenburg, 59, who worked for 19 years in mines. “I think the safety regulations should be left.”
Opposition to the premature S-MINER Act is widespread.
• On July 25, 2007, nearly a dozen professors of mining engineering urged Congress to allow the complete implementation of the MINER Act before considering new legislation:
“While there may be other safety and health issues that should be addressed in the future, in our opinion now is not the right time to pursue as much as is proposed in the pending bill. The intense work load on mine management, including safety professionals, and ultimately the miners who have to do the downstream MINER Act-related work is too great at this time to contemplate further legislation.”
• Rick Honaker, Mining Foundation Distinguished Professor and chairman of the University of Kentucky department of mining engineering stated in the Lexington Herald-Leader:
“But now it seems very strange, almost incomprehensible, that a move is afoot in Congress to impose an entirely new set of requirements on coal-mine operators and mine inspectors even before there has been an opportunity to comply with the far reaching provisions of the MINER Act. It threatens to disrupt the all-important emergency rescue provisions of the law….Simply put, additional legislation now serves no useful purpose.”
• Members on both sides of the aisle have urged Congress to refrain from acting too quickly and undermining the progress being made by the MINER Act.