Federal Eye: Eye Opener: Does MSHA need more muscle?

Happy Thursday! As rescuers prepare to enter West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch Mine and investigators
prepare to probe the cause
of Monday’s blast, attention is
beginning to focus on whether the U.S. Mine Safety and Health
Administration did everything in its power to help avoid the disaster.

Though Congress passed major mine safety reforms following the 2006 Sago (W.Va.) mine blast that killed 12 workers, several Congressional
Democrats pushed for more changes with a legislative package in 2007
designed to bolster MSHA’s enforcement powers.

The bill provided the agency with subpoena authority for the first time and permitted officials to stop production at a mine if a company
failed to address violations a timely manner. The bill also mandated
that MSHA take the lead on rescue efforts and provided the 2,400-man
agency with money to hire a miner ombudsman to field whistleblower
complaints and more family liaisons.

The measure also would have forced mining companies to further address concerns with retreat mining, or the practice of removing coal
pillars left in place to hold up a mine roof and pushed for stronger
enforcement of explosion-proof seals for abandoned areas of mines.

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