Hearing of the Senate Committee on Helath, Education, Labor and Pensions on Sago MIne Disaster
HEARING STATEMENT [AS PREPARED]: LABOR-HHS APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE SAGO MINE DISASTER
Thank you, Chairman Specter. While we are all thrilled with the news that Mr. McCloy appears to be recovering, our hearts are filled with sadness, and we extend our sympathy to the remaining 12 miners' families and friends, as they grieve the losses of their loved ones. Our thoughts and prayers are also with the families of the two West Virginia miners who were missing and found dead on Saturday and the Kentucky miner who passed away on January 10th.
Miners are a courageous group of people. Mining is dangerous work, and it takes a strong individual to endure the physical and mental toughness needed to work in this industry. Everyday, these miners put their lives on the line so that we may have electricity -- so that when we enter a room and flip on a switch, the light comes on.
Coal plays a significant role as an energy supply for our Nation. Already, coal generates more than half of the Nation's electricity and 87 percent of my home state of Ohio's electric power. With a 250 year supply, coal is the only fossil fuel that this country has in great abundance. Coal is part of this country's future, and we have to figure out how we can mine more safely.
Ohio produces more than 23 million tons of coal annually and ranks 7th in coal reserves and 3rd nationally in coal consumption, behind Texas and Indiana. But, this coal represents so much more than just energy production. In Ohio, coal is about people and families. It represents jobs and livelihoods. Coal directly employs over 3,000 Ohioans -- that's over 3,000 jobs that allow these Ohio individuals and families to make a living and to pay their bills and educate their kids and get them health care. It is also an industry that provided a total economic benefit of $3 billion to the state.
However, Ohio's coal production has decreased by 55 percent since the 1970s, and it is imperative that we find ways to bring Ohio's coal industry back to its prime to protect the families and jobs it represents. But again, we absolutely must do it in a safer, cleaner, more environmentally sound way. This is essential not only for Ohio, but for our entire Nation.
Mr. Chairman, I know our witnesses this morning will help give us insight into what we can do to see this vision move forward. Also, as a member of the full HELP Committee, I will be working with Chairman Enzi when our Committee holds its future hearings.
And again, I thank the Chairman for holding this very important hearing today, and I thank our witnesses. My thoughts and prayers remain with the families of the miners we have lost in the recent tragedies.