Rep. Capito to offer alternative mine safety bill

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito will soon be offering a GOP alternative to the mine-safety bill introduced this month by House Democrats. The West Virginia Republican said Tuesday that the bill being pushed by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House labor committee, isn’t focused enough on the safety problems plaguing the mining industry.

“Passing sweeping regulatory reform does not in itself ensure the safety of the miners,” Capito said Tuesday during a hearing on Miller’s bill. 

Capito said her proposal, due out this week, will expedite the citation appeals process, bolster the training of mine inspectors and create a new, independent federal agency to investigate mining accidents. 

Capito described her proposal as a bipartisan “good-faith effort to give everyone involved in mine safety, from inspectors to operators to the miners themselves, the resources they want, need and deserve to run a safe mine.” 

Miller, meanwhile, has similar things to say about his proposal. That bill — introduced in response to a deadly mine explosion in southern West Virginia in April — would bolster whistleblower protections for workers complaining of unsafe conditions; grant regulators subpoena power when performing investigations; and empower inspectors to close troubled mines more easily.

“It is simply unacceptable for mine workers to die or be injured in preventable accidents,” Miller said Tuesday.

Testifying before the House panel, Stanley “Goose” Stewart, a West Virginia miner who survived April’s deadly blast, said his employer, Massey Energy, systemically ignored safety procedures in order to harvest more coal.

“In my years of working for Massey, I feel they have taken coal mining back to the early 1900s using three principles: fear, intimidation and propaganda,” Stewart said. “A coal mine is the worst place in the world to work with no rights, and at Massey you have very little rights.”