The House version is co-sponsored by Rep. Nick J. Rahall, a West Virginia Democrat whose district includes the Upper Big Branch Mine.
"We owe it to our miners -- those living and those we have lost -- to continue to advance sensible improvements to our national mine health and safety program," Rahall said Friday.
Like earlier versions of the bill, the new legislation aims to rewrite the existing "pattern of violations" law and give the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration authority to subpoena witnesses for private accident investigations. Currently, MSHA can issue subpoenas only if it decides to hold public hearings, which the agency has declined to so in the case of Upper Big Branch.
The legislation would update standards for control of explosive coal dust underground, a move that scientists have urged for years, but that has gained new attention following Upper Big Branch.
It would also seek to hold MSHA more accountable by mandating independent investigations by a National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health panel for major mining accidents.
This year's bill toughens the language for criminal prosecutions of anyone who provides advance warning of MSHA inspections.
"Though we are still awaiting final reports from the investigations into the Upper Big Branch mine disaster, we already know many of the key factors that contributed to that disaster," Rahall said. "We ought not continue to wait to close the known gaps in the mine safety system that would allow another similar disaster to occur."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.