Bumbico's proposal may not go quite as far as previous industry efforts. But it received a similarly cool reception from safety advocates and House Democrats.
"Mine owners policing themselves is not the answer," said Aaron Albright, spokesman for ranking committee Democrat George Miller of California.
Albright noted that U.S. Government Accountability Office reviews of the OSHA VPP program diverted scarce resources without any real evidence of improved worker safety.
"Clearly, many are pushing to police themselves again because they want fewer inspections now that MSHA is finally doing their required quarterly or semiannual inspections," Albright said. "The sheer number of continuing high-profile negligent behavior by some shows that the industry can't be relied upon to police themselves."
Phil Smith, spokesman for the United Mine Workers union, said the industry proposal defeats the purpose of having strong laws on the books to protect miners.
"This industry has demonstrated over and over again that it is incapable of policing itself in the long run," Smith said.
"They can say all the nice things they want about compliance and a new focus on safety and how they are all being punished because of a few bad apples, but its important to remember that even today's so-called good apples have history of being bad apples. Without strong and continuous enforcement -- and the threat of penalties that have teeth -- history tells us that there won't be many good apples left."
MSHA chief Joe Main did not respond to a request for comment on the industry's proposal. But when he was UMW safety director, Main testified against similar proposals at a July 1998 congressional hearing.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.