Rockefeller sees mine safety overhaul on floor this year

He noted the cause of the accident at Massey Energy Co.’s mine remains under review. But Rockefeller added that lawmakers should not wait until the investigation’s final report before legislating.

“I just don’t think we can wait that long,” he said.

Lawmakers are looking at reforms to the safety citations process. Critics say companies are currently able to keep tougher regulatory enforcement at bay by filing frequent appeals.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is holding an April 27 hearing on mine safety.

President Barack Obama last week said he has tasked federal mine safety officials to “work with Congress to strengthen enforcement of existing laws and close loopholes that permit companies to shirk their responsibilities.”

But Obama also said that the administration would seek changes under its existing powers. He said the Labor Department would streamline rules for proving a company has committed a “pattern of violations,” which enables stepped-up action by regulators.