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West Virginia Legislation a "tremendous first step" to improve coal mine safety, UMWA President Roberts says

January 24, 2006

Congress, other state legislatures now must act to raise safety standards across America
United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts hailed the emergency legislation passed by the West Virginia Legislature yesterday as a "tremendous first step to improve coal mine safety in West Virginia. I applaud Governor Manchin and the members of the state Senate and House of Delegates for their quick action.

"The UMWA believes this legislation can be a model for other states to follow as an initial step, but there is still more to do to improve safety in the mines beyond what was passed in West Virginia," Roberts said. "The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) can take quick action through emergency rule-making as well, but we are concerned that it won't without pressure from outside the agency. That's why it is critically important for Congress to act in this effort, and act quickly."

Reflecting on his own testimony and the testimony of others before a U.S. Senate appropriations subcommittee yesterday, Roberts said, "The Senators at the hearing were keen to get answers to the problems associated with the tragedies at the Sago and Alma mines in West Virginia, and to address the larger issue of the growing trend at MSHA away from strict enforcement of mine safety rules and regulations.

"The UMWA hopes that the West Virginia legislation, yesterday's hearing in the Senate and future hearings in Congress can result in safer mines across America," Roberts said. "That will happen only if MSHA and the state mine safety agencies enforce the laws that are passed and the laws that are already on the books. At the end of the day, coal miners need to be assured that the state and federal governments must not merely look like they're doing something, but in fact back up their words with action."

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