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Senate Approves $35.6 million for Mine Safety Improvements

Senate lawmakers gave the go-ahead in including $35.6 million for mine safety improvements in the Senate emergency national security funding bill May 4, a measure Sen. Robert C. Byrd and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) have been pressing for with the aim of preventing future mine tragedies from occurring.

"In the wake of 18 coal mining deaths in the state of West Virginia this year, and another 17 mining deaths in other states, it is imperative that the Congress act immediately ensure an adequate number of safety inspectors be provided for our nation's mines, and to expedite the introduction of critical safety equipment," Byrd said.

The $35.6 million will begin to pay for more mine safety inspectors as well as move advanced safety and rescue technologies into the nation's coal mines.

Rockefeller emphasized that acquiring funding is only the beginning in their efforts to improve mine safety. "For the past few months, we [Byrd and Rockefeller] have worked together on bipartisan legislation to provide better communication, access to adequate oxygen supplies and more efficient rescue operations," he said.

The Senate's approval of $35.6 million for mine safety comes on the heels of 2 days of hearings by state and federal investigators examining the cause of the Sago mine explosion and the rescue efforts that followed.

The emergency national security funding package next will be examined by Senate and House members, who will work to iron out the differences between their two versions of the legislation.

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