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cal04 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-10-10 01:23 PM
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Mine agency powers limited, often unused

The Mine Safety and Health Administration was created almost 35 years ago, after deadly explosions at a Kentucky mine, with a mission to conduct more inspections of the nations mines and enforce safety standards more strictly. It was strengthened four years ago, after more disasters.

But it remains fundamentally weak in several areas, and does not always use the powers it has.

The agency can seek to close mines that it deems unsafe and to close repeat offenders, but it rarely does so. The fines it levies are relatively small, and many go uncollected for years. It lacks subpoena power, a basic investigatory tool. Its investigators are not technically law enforcement officers, like those at other agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency .

And its criminal sanctions are weak, the result of compromises over the 1977 Mine Act that created the agency. Falsifying records is a felony, for example, while deliberate violations of safety standards that may lead to deaths are misdemeanors.

We know that there are some areas of the law that probably could be strengthened, and so were going to be reviewing those areas for example, looking at powers to subpoena, she said. We dont have the authority to shut down a mine as easily and as quickly as the public might think, and I think those are the loopholes that we want to close. (Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis)
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