The Senate’s lag in passing legislation to help better protect our nation’s coal miners has reached a tipping point for some. With the tragic events in West Virginia last April, in which 29 miners lost their lives, one would think the red flags calling for stronger safety laws are apparent. The investigation into that explosion and the conditions those miners worked in revealed a string of sketchy safety measures and unacceptable risks taken by mine owner Massey Energy.
The reason(s) for the stall on the legislative side are up for debate. There is a mine safety reform bill moving toward a floor vote, "but the Senate’s attempt to come up with a bipartisan measure is floundering," according to a September 20, 2010, New York Times editorial, "Miners Die, Congress Dawdles." John Rockefeller, IV, Democrat of West Virginia, says Republican staffers "balked on everything." Both the Senate and House measures look to provide the "flabby" Mine Safety and Health Administration with "subpoena power over recalcitrant owners; increased civil and criminal penalties; protection for whistle-blowing miners; and faster disaster investigations."
The inherent value in these laws being passed should be reason enough to pass, but if it isn’t, the added insult-to-injury of the Deepwater Horizon disaster this past summer should add extra incentive; the House mine bill includes occupational safety amendments that have been drafted in response to the oil rig explosion that claimed 11 workers.
With these and similar tragedies mounting up, both chambers seem to want to do something in order to increase the preventative measures necessary to ensure they happen less. The question is: what’s the hold up? Political bickering is, as often the case, causing real safety measures from being legislated.