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Kline, Walberg Question MSHA Leader on Reported Enforcement Lapses

The U.S. House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Workforce Protections held a hearing today to examine recent regulatory and policy changes aimed at improving mine safety. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) Secretary Joseph Main testified as the sole hearing witness.

During the hearing, Committee Members expressed concerns about a March 25, 2010 report released by MSHA’s accountability office detailing several instances in which MSHA officials failed to enforce existing rules and regulations.  The report's findings were not shared with the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

In his opening remarks, Subcommittee Chairman Tim Walberg (R-MI) said, “If there is one thing we know, it is the strongest laws on the books cannot protect miners if the agency charged with enforcing those laws fails to do so. An article in today’s Charleston Gazette reveals a 2010 report by your administration written just days before the Upper Big Branch tragedy.

“The report, as described by the Charleston Gazette, details ‘serious enforcement lapses, including incomplete inspections and inadequate enforcement actions.’ I am troubled by this report.”

House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) echoed Chairman Walberg’s concerns, calling the report “damning” as he read aloud some of the details of the findings. Chairman Kline asked Secretary Main for his thoughts on the report and questioned MSHA's progress in addressing the problems.

“To tackle a number of these, we just needed to retool our system,” Secretary Main said, adding “Hopefully, as we look down the road, the kind of systemic problems that we’ve seen from these audits, that last one you spoke of, and back over the years, that we have put successfully a program in place that we don’t find these kind of problems.”

Chairman Kline responded, “I hope that we move beyond ‘hopefully,’” and are really doing this.”

To read testimony and view related documents from today’s hearing, visit