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W.Va. delegation weighs in on shutdown's effect on miners' safety

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Cecelia Mason
/
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

West Virginia’s congressional delegation is weighing in on the shutdown’s
effect on mine safety. Approximately 1,400 of MSHA’s 2,355 employees are
furloughed during the government shutdown. Three miners were killed
on three consecutive days this past weekend, including one from West
Virginia.

In his remarks Thursday from the House floor, Congressman Nick Rahall
urged his colleagues to “abandon this ridiculous political showdown that
is undercutting the safety in our mines, our industrial facilities, our
food chain, and so much more.”

“There is talk that the shutdown is causing no real pain.  The most extreme anti-government politicians even express the hope that such a cutback in government programs and services should be made permanent.  And too many others are content to hang back and let those with extreme views have their way for the time being. But I stand here today to remind my colleagues, and the public, that cuts in government funding and government programs have consequences --sometimes deadly. It is a lesson we learned in 2006 when annual coal mining deaths soared to 45, a 10-year high, reversing an 80-year trend of steadily falling fatalities – a trend attributed, in part, to years of underfunding the Mine Safety and Health Administration.”

Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito introduced legislation Thursday to fund the Mine Safety and Health Administration through December 15, 2013.  The bill would fund MSHA at the same level that was in effect the day before the shutdown began.

“MSHA performs the critical role of making sure that West Virginia coal miners come home safely each day,” Capito said.  “This important legislation would allow MSHA to operate at full capacity, protecting our miners notwithstanding the government shutdown.”
 
In a news release issued Thursday, Capito says she voted for three Continuing Resolutions prior to September 30 that would have averted a government shutdown. 

Senator Jay Rockefeller also released a statement Wednesday on the matter:

"My heart goes out to the family of 62-year-old Roger R. King of Moundsville who was killed late last week at the McElroy Mine in Marshall County. Any time a miner perishes while working underground, we are reminded of the critical importance of keeping our miners safe on the job. While details are still forthcoming about this and other mining fatalities we’ve suffered in recent days, I cannot help but to express my deep frustration about the misguided government shutdown that has furloughed MSHA inspectors and prevented them from conducting the regular inspections that make sure coal companies are operating their mines as safely as possible. During this shutdown, I urge all coal operators to be vigilant about safety procedures in their mines that will prevent mining injuries and deaths. I also urge miners to report any behavior that you believe is putting you and your fellow miners in jeopardy. Even during a shutdown, MSHA has said it will continue to investigate complaints from miners about conditions that may pose serious safety problems.”


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