BECKLEY, WEST VIRGINIA | May 24, 2010
Thank you Chairman Miller and let me also extend my thanks to Governor Manchin, the community surrounding Montcoal, and especially the family members who are welcoming us here today.
This hearing is a somber occasion, but an important one. The April 5th explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine stole the lives of 29 miners and forever changed the lives of their families, friends, coworkers, and communities. Today’s hearing provides us and the public a forum to hear directly from survivors of this tragedy – the family members who lost loved ones and the leaders helping them cope.
The federal investigations are ongoing, and congressional oversight has only just begun. There are still far too many questions and far too few answers.
In Congress, our job is not only to write federal laws, but to exercise oversight of those laws and the agencies administering them. We have powerful investigative tools and a large bully pulpit from which to speak. With that comes a solemn responsibility to investigate carefully, thoroughly, responsibly, and openly.
Chairman Miller and I have worked together – as have members of our staffs – in preparation for that investigation. Our goal is to examine mine safety laws, looking at how they have been implemented and whether they are being obeyed. What we will not do is undercut or impede the important investigations currently underway by MSHA and other federal authorities. Instead, our job is to look more broadly at the safety of underground coal mining.
In time, I expect we will be discussing regulatory and legislative changes to strengthen mine safety by demanding steadfast compliance with – and enforcement of – mine safety laws.
But that’s not why we’re here today.
Today, we are here for the families. You all are not here to listen to me – I am here to listen to you, and once again, I’d like to thank you for that opportunity.
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