Republican Sen. Arlen Specter Criticizes Bush for Mining Spending Cuts
Here's an update on the mining story. The Senate had a mine safety hearing today. These are the kinds of issues the left should have no problem talking about. The larger problem is that today's news cycle isn't what it used to be. This story will disappear in just days and it takes time and effort to do the actual research:
"These deaths, I believe, were entirely preventable," said Senator Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, citing recent budget cuts, staff reductions and "a culture of cronyism" as factors contributing to insufficient oversight by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.
But David Dye, acting administrator of the mine safety agency, rejected the criticism. He told a hearing of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on mine safety that it was far too early to identify the cause of the accidents - the Jan. 2 explosion at the Sago Mine that killed 12 miners and the conveyer belt fire on Thursday that killed 2 miners at the Aracoma Alma Mine 1 near Melville.
"Until the joint investigation team can safely enter the mine to thoroughly examine the site, we will not know" what caused the Sago accident, Mr. Dye said.
Lawmakers grew increasingly frustrated with agency officials' answers.
Senator Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the subcommittee on mining issues, criticized the administration for not keeping up with inflation in financing mine safety and said that over the last 10 years the agency's budget had been cut by $2.8 million, which led to the loss of the 183 staff members.
About midway through the two-hour hearing, Mr. Dye said that he had other matters to attend to and had to leave.
Senator Specter responded with frustration: "I can understand your pressing other business. It may well be that some of the senators here have pressing matters, too. We don't think we are imposing too much to keep you here for another hour."
After Mr. Specter added, "That's the committee's request, but you're not under subpoena," Mr. Dye got up and walked out.
"I can't recollect it ever happening before," Mr. Specter said. "We'll find a way to take appropriate note of it."
Meanwhile, West Virginia's state Senate unanimously passed a law requiring mine operators to store extra breathing packs in their mines and to provide miners with devices that would make it easier to locate them in times of emergency.
The law would also require coal operators to contact a new statewide hot line when accidents occur. Under the law, backed by Gov. Joe Manchin III, mine operators would face fines of $100,000 if they fail to report an accident within 15 minutes.