Rahall, D-W.Va., has been pressing congressional colleagues to act on long-stalled legislation that would give stronger protections to coal miners who blow the whistle on dangerous conditions, give MSHA federal subpoena power and impose stiffer criminal penalties that would be a meaningful deterrent.
"I remain committed to working to pass legislation that will prevent bad-actor operators -- a small minority of our coal companies -- from calculatingly breaking the law and putting their own miners in danger for the sake of profit," Rahall said.
Sen. Joe Manchin, who was governor at the time, said he thinks about the tragedy every day "and the fact that it could have been prevented."
He vowed to fight every day to make the safety of miners a priority.
"All the miners across the country who kiss their families goodbye before leaving for a shift should know that they will return home again safely," he said.
An MSHA internal review concluded that federal inspectors either missed problems or failed to examine areas where they existed in the 18 months before the blast but found no evidence those failures caused it.
But a team led by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recently concluded that timely enforcement of existing regulations "would have lessened the chances of -- and possibly could have prevented" the explosion.
Although MSHA inspectors wrote 684 violations in the 18 months prior to the blast, the agency said they failed to act on eight that could have been deemed "flagrant," the most serious designation. They also failed to conduct special investigations on at least six occasions to determine whether managers knowingly violated safety standards.
MSHA director Joe Main said last week those cases have since been turned over to federal prosecutors.
Alpha marked the anniversary by announcing late Wednesday that the mine will be sealed with concrete.
The company said it will seal the portals -- large tunnels miners use to get underground -- at the mine. Boreholes will be plugged and shafts that house the huge industrial fans meant to sweep bad air out of the mine will be capped to prevent any access. The job should be finished by summer, the company said.