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Frivolous Violations…

Your congressional representative Dennis Rehberg believes that the recent aggressive enforcement of mine safety regulations is just a political stunt by the radical Socialist enviro-Obamanists who want to destroy the mining industry in Montana. Because, everybody knows that the best way to re-elect Democrats in Montana is to destroy good paying jobs and ruin our economy. Denny sent a letter to the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) “expressing the concerns he’s heard around Montana that the mission of the agency has shifted from protecting miners to ideologically motivated policies designed to curtail mining altogether.” When did this shift occur and just where “around Montana” has he heard these concerns? Your man in the House talked to miners in Troy who complained about piddly-ass safety violations like wrongly-spaced ladder rungs, not contacting MSHA quickly enough after a fire in a storage shed and a burned out light bulb. Sounds just atrocious to me.

Or, maybe it wasn’t “around Montana”, could it be that Mr. Rehberg heard something entirely different when held a $2,500-per-plate fundraiser on Sept. 30 in Washington, D.C. hosted by the National Mining Association PACs, Peabody PAC and Newmont PAC? Maybe he got the idea when he met with refinery workers in Billings on Oct. 20, who “blamed the Republican for cutting corners with federal work safety agencies and failing to keep American jobs from going overseas.“? A local steelworker, Dan Long, accused Rehberg of being at fault for poor safety, “He faulted cuts to MSHA and enforce-yourself policies adopted by OSHA during the George W. Bush presidency for making workplaces unsafe. “You and buddy Bush cut MSHA,””

The Bush Administration, with the approval of Congress, attempted to cut mine safety funding by $10 million per year. During the Bush Administration tenure;

MHSA records show that there were 101 fewer MSHA workers dedicated to mine safety enforcement in 2006 than there were in 2001. And the Government Accountability office found that nearly half of MHSA’s mine safety inspections, including those revealing severe safety issues, weren’t being followed up in the mandated time period. More than $3 million in safety fines were also going unpaid, including a $440 penalty stemming from the death of an Kentucky miner.

Obvious evidence that the Obama environmental extremists want to harass the mining industry for no particular reason. What other reason could there be for these “misguided and burdensome rules” other than “environmental extremism“?

April 5, 2010 – Upper Big Branch Mine: “The West Virginia coal mine where an explosion killed 25 workers and left another four unaccounted for in the worst mining disaster since 1984 had amassed scores of citations from mining safety officials, including 57 infractions just last month for violations that included repeatedly failing to develop and follow a ventilation plan.

Aug. 6, 2007 – Crandall Canyon Mine: “When nine men died in the Crandall Canyon mine 16 months ago, it was the biggest Utah story of 2007. In 2008, the tragedy continued to make big news as investigators assessed what went wrong and where the blame lies.

May 20, 2006 – Darby Mine No. 1: “An explosion in an eastern Kentucky coal mine killed five miners Saturday, Gov. Ernie Fletcher said. A sixth miner was able to walk away from the blast and out of the mine on his own.  The blast at the Darby Mine No. 1 in Harlan County occurred between midnight and 1 a.m. EDT while a maintenance shift was on duty, said Amy Louviere, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. It was the latest in a string of mine accidents to hit U.S. coal country this year.

Jan. 2, 2006 – Sago Mine: 12 dead. “The Sago Disaster was a tragedy that did not have to happen. As the UMWA’s report stated, the twelve men killed at Sago did not have to die. But they did, as a result of a series of decisions that were made by the mine’s owner, and allowed by the state and federal agencies that are charged with mine safety.

Sept. 23, 2001 – Blue Creek No. 5 Mine: “Thirteen coal miners are dead as the result of two gas explosions September 23 at the Jim Walter Resources Blue Creek No. 5 Mine in Brookwood, Alabama. Ten of the victims were miners who refused to evacuate and rushed to help coworkers after the first explosion.

Maybe Denny is right. Maybe MSHA should take a closer look at mine safety. Looks to me like a little balance could only help. Or as Representative Rehberg puts it,

MSHA must take a balanced approach that also weighs the importance of jobs and the long-term impact on our communities.  Miners want a working relationship with MSHA, but unfortunately, MSHA’s role has changed from compliance to enforcement.  As frivolous violations add up, so does the likelihood that miners’ jobs will be lost due to MSHA’s overzealous enforcement.

Certainly it can only be better for the mine owners to loose miners than to loose revenue to “overzealous enforcement”.

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