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Rockefeller, Goodwin honor Upper Big Branch miners

Introduce Robert C. Byrd Mine and Workplace Safety and Health Act

July 30, 2010
The Inter-Mountain

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Carte Goodwin, both D-W.Va., on Thursday unveiled mine safety legislation to honor the fallen miners at Upper Big Branch and to promote a culture of safety in mining and other industries.

Rockefeller previously joined Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Tom Harkin in unveiling a draft proposal in June. Similar legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Nick Rahall and House Education and Labor Chairman George Miller.

"I've fought my entire career to make sure that hard working Americans can go to jobs without fearing for their safety and I will not stop until this is a reality," Rockefeller said. "Before his death, Senator (Robert C.) Byrd and I worked together to develop the beginnings of this workplace safety legislation-which includes significant improvements for our coal mines. Even as the investigation into the Upper Big Branch mine continues to move forward, we owe it to the families, and to the miners that still get up and go to work each day, to find real solutions-fixing the process for safety enforcement at mines with repeated violations, providing MSHA with strong safety tools and holding them more accountable, and protecting our dedicated miners who speak up when they know safety measures aren't being handled correctly."

"As a lifelong West Virginian, I know how much coal mining means to our state and how important it is that our miners have a safe workplace," Goodwin said. "We were all devastated by the disasters that occurred at the Sago and Upper Big Branch mines. From my role in helping our state enhance its mine safety laws after the Sago accident, I know that Senator Rockefeller and the late Senator Byrd have worked tirelessly to create legislation to tighten safety standards and to make sure that our federal agencies have the resources necessary to the enforce mine safety laws currently in place. I am proud to take my experience on this issue and continue to fight for appropriate measures that will make sure that our miners operate in a safe work environment."

In one of his final actions as a Senator, the late Byrd, D-W.Va., teamed up with Rockefeller to secure an amendment to the Wall Street Reform conference report to hold mining companies accountable for their safety records. Specifically, the amendment requires that publicly traded mining companies include serious mine safety violations in their filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Mining companies that fail to properly disclose this information would face SEC penalties.

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