CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Corporate officials who control safety practices at coal mines could be more easily held accountable for violations and accidents, under legislation introduced Friday in the U.S. House.
The legislation, introduced by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., would broaden the definitions of mine operators and their agents for the purposes of civil violations and criminal sanctions.
Miller said information uncovered so far in the investigation of the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster shows the need for the legislation, which is named for the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va.
"The Upper Big Branch Disaster laid bare the loopholes that riddle our mine safety laws," said Miller, ranking Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee. "These loopholes allow dubious mine operators like Massey Energy to violate mine safety rules repeatedly with impunity.
"There are things we must do right now so that every miner is able to return home safely to their families at the end of their shift," Miller said. "Congress can't simply wait for the next tragedy to act."
The legislation is similar to bills that failed to pass last year in the House and Senate, and to legislation introduced in the Senate earlier this year by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.