Congressman Puzzled by MSHA Exclusion at Mine Safety Hearing

A decision made by a House subcommittee to exclude MSHA from testifying at a hearing examining the potential passage of a recently introduced mine safety bill has brought condemnation from ranking Republican member Joe Wilson, R-S.C., who said he found it "puzzling" that three labor unions were invited to testify instead.

Wilson addressed his concerns in a letter sent to House Education and Labor Workforce Protections Subcommittee Chairwoman Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., on July 23, claiming it was important for both MSHA and the mining industry to be present at such a hearing, since they would “likely be most impacted” by the new law.

H.R. 2768, the Supplemental Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act (S-MINER) of 2007, was introduced by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, on June 19. The new bill would would supplement many of the requirements listed in the current Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act, which was passed into law last year.

Wilson detailed in the letter how MSHA and the mining industry were still in the process of implementing changes effected in the MINER Act.

“If enacted, the S-MINER Act will have a profound effect on these efforts,” Wilson wrote. “In that light, to exclude either of these parties from participating in this debate, or to structure the hearing in such a way as to effectively exclude their full participation, does a disservice to our roles as policymakers that borders on irresponsible.”

Woolsey: Only Three Parties Can Testify Per Hearing

In the letter, Wilson proposed to add one more witness to testify in order to ensure “that that all parties with an interest in this legislation are given an opportunity to be heard.”

However, Woolsey, in a response letter sent on July 24, said she wouldn't be able to grant Wilson's request due to the subcommittee's requirement of having a three-to-one or four-to-two ratio during hearings, claiming she didn't see a reason to change the practice now.

“We have already taken a thorough look at mining issues through two previous hearings [of the full committee] where both MSHA and the industry participated fully,” Woolsey noted in ther letter. “And we have and will continue to consult with both industry and MSHA as we move forward.”

A call made to MSHA for comment was not returned.

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