House Mining Safety Bill Passes January 16

In "Coal: $35 million in Astroturfing," my friend, Clem who blogs with me over at West Virginia Blue, posted about about Steven Mufson January 18 WaPo story, "Coal Industry Plugs Into the Campaign" concerning the coal industry group, Americans for Balanced Energy Choices which is spending that amount
in primary and caucus states to rally public support for coal-fired electricity and to fuel opposition to legislation that Congress is crafting to slow climate change.
He aslo pointed out a long blog post of the same name by A Siegel at EnergySmart. I thought I'd add something about another such group, the National Mining Association's (NMA) ACT for Mining and George Miller (D-CA)'s "Supplemental Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act" or S-MINER (H.R. 2768) which passed the House January 16 by a vote of 214 to 199.

Our "friends" at the NMA took the position that Mr. Miller was
pushing a new "mine safety" bill even before the mining community has had a chance to fully implement the bipartisan Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response (MINER) Act. The House is set to vote on Jan. 16 on the Supplemental-MINER Act (H.R. 2768), a bill that would impose new, unnecessary regulations on both hardrock and coal mining operations that will do nothing to improve mine safety. Passage of this new legislation could possibly idle or close mines and have unintended, adverse effects on mine safety.

NMA sent out multiple alerts urging their supporters to call or e-mail their House members and ask them to vote against the bill. So what was the reaction to what it termed a "narrow" passage? In a new alert NMA wrote,

The 199 votes cast in opposition are substantially more than the 145 votes needed to sustain a threatened presidential veto, should one ultimately be necessary. This action also will likely diminish interest in Senate consideration of H.R. 2768, in essence, stopping the progress of this bad bill.
They're now urging that we write to thank the 199, which includes the following 16 Democrats:
  • Barrow (GA)
  • Berry (AZ)
  • Boren (OK)
  • Boyd (FL)
  • Boyda (KS)
  • Cramer (AL)
  • Cuellar and Lampson (TX)
  • Melancon
  • Davis (TN)
  • Herseth Sandlin (SD)
  • Perlmutter, Salazar and Udall (CO).
  • Peterson (MN)
My gut reaction is, instead, to ask our friends in their home states to curse them out (all right, to ask why they voted that way, express disappointment, look up the rest of their record to determine if it's problematic, and if so, work to get a more progressive Democrat elected in the next primary and General Election). Then, write to thank those who voted for the bill. Reactions? I know I've had one reader today from Whitewater, KS or thereabouts and several in TX. Could you help those of us who live in Appalachia?

Shelley Moore Capito of WV was one of only 7 Republicans to vote for the bill. The others were:
Spencer Bachus (AL), Wayne Gilchrest (MD), Sam Graves (MO), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Chris Shays (CT) and Chris Smith (NJ).

Before the vote, the bill's sponsor, George Miller offered an amendment to provide

the mining industry with more time to install a new generation of fire-resistant conveyor belts,

as well as funds for the the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to purchase
a new generation of dust monitoring devices to limit black lung disease, and ensure that breathable air requirements of the MINER Act of 2006 are properly implemented.
In addition, the amendment requires that the Secretary of Labor to
conduct a study on substance abuse by miners with recommendations for policy changes, in consultation with all interested parties. The Secretary shall report the findings within six months of the bill's enactment and, if she deems it feasible and effective, shall be authorized to establish a miner substance abuse testing, rehabilitation, and treatment program within MSHA in consultation with the interested parties.

Our Congressman, Rick Boucher (D) offered an amendment to provide ten million dollars for
grants to provide rehabilitation services to current and former miners suffering from mental health impairments, including drug addiction and substance abuse issues, which may have been caused or exacerbated by their work as miners.

Brad Elsworth (D-IN) offered an amendment to relieve mine operators

that have been assessed penalties and pay them in a timely fashion. It also establishes a trust fund within Treasury, composed of mine safety civil penalties. Funds from the trust fund can be used for mine safety inspections and investigations only.

All these amendments passed.

Meanwhile although there are exactly zero underground mines in SC (I looked it up--the Census Bureau's 1997 Economic Census on Mining for South Carolina page 13), and the pit mining there seems to be gravel and sand and clay (page 12), Joe Wilson (R-SC) who represents the second district which comprises the midlands of Columbia down to Hilton Head Island submitted an amendment in the nature of a substitute to:
promote the continued robust implementation of the 2006 MINER Act.
Then, after that motion failed and the bill passed Mark Souder (R-IN) tried to get the matter returned to committee, but failed.

Other interesting reading from today: