Thursday, July 01, 2010

Congressman John Kline Declining to Support Safety for American Workers

Coal miner Josh Napper had a sick feeling something wasn’t right at his job, so he put his thoughts on paper for those he loved the most before heading back to work. It would be his last communication with them.

His handwritten note read: “If anything happens to me, I will be looking down from heaven,”
This week Representative John Kline(MN-R) went on record saying instead of enacting needed mining safety regulations, just enforce the existing ones. Unfortunately it’s difficult if not impossible to shut down a mine with poor safety records under the current appeals process. Additionally the government oversight agency has no power to subpoena documents or testimony, and even if it could, there is no whistle blower protection. American mine workers put themselves, co-workers, family and neighbors at risk by reporting problems.

In April of this year, the Upper Big Branch mining disaster left 29 workers dead. The accident brought to light numerous violations..a grand total of 1100 violations in the past three year against the mine. In the months prior to the accident, the operating company, Performance Coal Company, a subsidiary of Massey Energy was fined $382,000 for serious violations cited for 57 safety infractions. Just the day before the explosion, the mine received two citations and in the year preceding the explosion the mine had been closed 60 times.

There were lots of reports posted regarding the serious myriad violations within the mine over the last three years. And while their number is overwhelming, unfortunately the mining company can point to having a better than industry average for six consecutive years. Which begs to question of: a low thrust hold for mining safety regulations if they are better than others!

In addition the company has contested nearly a third of the violations since 2005. The appeal process has both delayed penalties and delays the process which could potentially stop any unsafe mine from closing for years!

This speaks to a serious problems with the enforcement of regulations (MSHA, Mining Safety and Health Administration) and oversight. Now that the Democrats want to pass improve legislation for miner’s safety, John Kline is opposing it. Just as with “drill, baby, drill”, Kline would have the industry ‘self regulate’. BTW John, how’s that working out with BP?

“Democratic lawmakers, seeking to prevent another mine disaster like the April explosion that killed 29 workers in West Virginia, proposed sweeping new legislation Tuesday that would make it easier to shut down mines with poor safety records”

As with most all the other Democratic legislation that John Kline opposes, Kline has no specific recommendations other than asking for stronger enforcement of existing regulations. Which is ironic considering it was under the Republican’s administration that MSHA was gutted and made worthless.

The bill introduced this week would boost penalties, grant regulators expanded access, and protect whistle blowers. As demonstrated by the numerous mining accidents and the human toll, how can Rep. Kline be so shallow as to think that’s ‘overreaching’?

Unlike the Democratic summary of the proposal, Representative Kline doesn't believe  “All workers deserve to come home safe after work each day.”

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