Congress Passes Mine Safety Overhaul

June 20, 2006 – Coal miners won two victories last week with the passage of the first mine safety overhaul legislation since 1977 and the collapse of support for yet another coal industry executive to head the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). The mine safety bill requires more oxygen supplies for miners, better communication and tracking equipment and faster emergency crew response times.

In the Senate, President Bush’s nomination of coal industry executive Richard Stickler to lead the MSHA failed after GOP leaders could not muster 60 votes to stop Senator Robert Byrd’s (D-WV) hold on the nomination.

Stickler testified at his confirmation hearing that no new safety laws were necessary. The mines that Stickler managed from 1989 to 1996 had injury rates that were double the national average, according to a study of government records by the United Mine Workers of America.

“MSHA is full of former mining company executives, some of whom spent years opposing any regulatory efforts by the agency, who continue to be influenced by their friends in the industry,” said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney in a letter to U.S. Senators. “The next director of MSHA needs to be someone with a history of advocating for miners’ safety and health, not someone with a history of advocating for the interests of mine operators.”