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Byrd Reaction To Meeting With MSHA Officials

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Byrd Reaction To Meeting With MSHA Officials

U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., issued the following statement after his meeting this afternoon in his U.S. Capitol office with U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller and U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) officials to discuss the recent West Virginia mining disaster which claimed the lives of 29 coal miners:

"We had an informative discussion this afternoon with MSHA officials updating us on the tragedy at the Upper Big Branch Mine on April 5, and the status of the investigation into the cause of this terrible explosion."

"We have been told that the underground physical examination of the mine will begin within the week. We have been told that this is going to be a long investigative process that will pose a big challenge for the agencies involved."

"And we were also told that according to MSHA, in 2009 their agency had issued 48 withdrawal orders at the Upper Big Branch Mine for repeated significant and substantial violations, which is nearly 19 times the national rate -- and the highest in the country."

"Disasters on this scale were supposed to be relegated to history following the passage of the 1969 Coal Act. It's incomprehensible that 29 miners should have perished in what appears to be a methane gas explosion, exacerbated by excessive coal dust. It is a violation of the most basic health and safety laws. We must determine why the enforcement process broke down, and hold accountable those responsible."

"The ultimate responsibility for the health and safety of the miners falls to the mine operator. No captain of industry, regardless of power or position, is beyond the reach the law. We mean to act swiftly, deliberately, and comprehensively to protect our miners, and to hold accountable any operator who puts profits above the health and safety of his own employees."

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