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Rep Rahall Warns of Mine Safety Inspection Cuts
In his remarks to the House, Rahall urged his colleagues to “abandon this ridiculous political showdown that is undercutting the safety in our mines, our industrial facilities, our food chain, and so much more.”
Rahall’s remarks delivered in the House Representatives are below.
Remarks of U.S. Rep. Nick J. Rahall, II
Very Real and Dangerous Consequences of a Government Shutdown
Mr. Speaker, some of my colleagues would have us believe that our current Federal shutdown has no real consequences. I have heard some suggest that this period of suspended government should be thought of merely as a slow down or a slim down.
There is talk that the shutdown is causing no real pain. The most extreme anti-government politicians even express the hope that such a cutback in government programs and services should be made permanent. And too many others are content to hang back and let those with extreme views have their way for the time being.
But I stand here today to remind my colleagues, and the public, that cuts in government funding and government programs have consequences -- sometimes deadly.
It is a lesson we learned in 2006 when annual coal mining deaths soared to 45, a 10-year high, reversing an 80-year trend of steadily falling fatalities – a trend attributed, in part, to years of underfunding the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
It is a lesson we should heed now. This year, as of September 4th, 14 coal miners had died on the job in our country. And this past weekend, three coal miners lost their lives at work over three consecutive days -- including, one miner in West Virginia.
Think about that: In first nine months of the year, fourteen coal miners perished on the job. In the first nine days of the government shutdown, three coal miners have perished. Mr. Speaker, even one death is too many.
No one has linked these recent deaths directly to the government shutdown. But the inability of this Congress to pass a simple bill to fund all the operations of our government has resulted in cutbacks of routine inspections that are essential to the complex system of safety oversight of this complex industry.
Miners and operators know that MSHA's multilayered inspection and enforcement system has been hampered. Assistant Secretary Joe Main has said, "Three miners killed on three consecutive days is extremely troubling.
The fact that this occurred over a weekend, when there may be a greater expectation an MSHA inspector would not be present, is a red flag."
I hope that everyone in the coal industry -- from the CEOs to the office staff, to security guards, to the miners themselves -- will redouble their vigilance and take every possible step to ensure health and safety.
And I urge my colleagues to abandon this ridiculous political showdown that is undercutting the safety in our mines, our industrial facilities, our food chain, and so much more.
This is not a slow down. It is not a slim down.
This is a politically driven shutdown and it has real and dangerous consequences for the people who put their faith in us to provide them with basic services, to ensure their well-being, to protect their lives, to simply do the job we were elected to do – to lead.