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Obama Launches Mine-Safety Review

Source: WSJ

Posted on 15 Apr 2010

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President Barack Obama said a pattern of management and oversight failures led to the mining disaster in West Virginia that killed 29 workers.

While the government's investigation of what caused the explosion at a Massey Energy Co. Big Branch mine is ongoing, the company's safety record was troubling, he said.

"I refuse to accept any number of miner deaths as simply a cost of doing business,'' Mr. Obama told reporters Thursday in the Rose Garden, vowing to step up scrutiny of coal-mine safety standards in the aftermath of the April 5 explosion.

Mr. Obama said that mining regulations are riddled with loopholes that allow companies to continually put miners in harm's way.

"If a tragedy can be prevented, it should be prevented," Mr. Obama said. "That is the responsibility of mine operators, that is the responsibility of the government."

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin on Wednesday ordered state safety officials to inspect all underground mines in the state immediately, beginning with ones that had been cited for combustion-related violations.

Mr. Obama said he directed Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to work closely with Congress to "strengthen existing laws" and to close loopholes. He cited "endless litigation" on the part of mining companies "to evade their responsibility."

"We can't just hold mining companies accountable. We have to hold Washington accountable," the president said.

The exact cause of the explosion is unknown, though a buildup of methane gas is suspected as the culprit. The government had cited Massey for a series of violations ahead of the explosion, and had found problems with the company's system for ventilating methane gas.