CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Obama administration on Monday proposed a slight cut in its budget for the U.S. Department of Labor's mine safety efforts, but said it plans to focus limited resources on safety and health enforcement.
In its proposal for the 2013 financial year, the White House recommended reducing overall funding for the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration from $373 million to $372 million.
MSHA said it would be shifting resources within the agency, to spend $2.9 million more next year on enforcement of safety and health standards in the coal industry and $1.8 million more on inspections of non-coal mines.
"MSHA is strategically targeting its resources to ensure that it can carry out the required functions of the Mine Act to assure the safety and health of our nation's miners," MSHA chief Joe Main said during a labor department Internet "chat" about the budget proposal.
Under the proposal, MSHA would reduce spending on mostly non-enforcement branches that focus on education and training, information resources and program administration.
But the agency would also cut spending on its newly combined office that handles penalty assessments and collections, special investigations that look for potential criminal violations and reviews of how well MSHA is doing its job.
MSHA would also cut $1 million and 17 positions from the division that reviews key mine operator plans for ventilating and controlling the roof of underground mines.
Independent audits and government reviews have linked inadequate MSHA plan reviews to several recent mine disasters, and questions persist about how well MSHA handled Massey Energy ventilation plans prior to the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster.