Mine Official Urges Passage Of Safety Bill

For the second time in four years, Congress is considering tougher mine safety laws after 29 men were killed this spring in a massive explosion in West Virginia. Mine Safety and Health Administration director Joe Main told lawmakers the bill would bring "a culture of safety" to the industry.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:

Here in the U.S., Congress is considering tougher mine safety laws after 29 men were killed this spring in a massive explosion in West Virginia.

NPR's Frank Langfitt reports on the prospects.

FRANK LANGFITT: Joe Main, the government's head of Mine Safety, told a House hearing yesterday that proposed legislation would make it easier for the government to shut down dangerous mines and better protect whistleblowers.

JOE MAIN: Many miners won't speak up about safety problems for fear of losing their jobs. We are resolved to changing that culture of fear.

LANGFITT: George Miller, a California Democrat who oversees the House Education and Labor Committee, summed up the view of many.

GEORGE MILLER: The fact of the matter is the current law isn't working.

LANGFITT: But Congressman John Kline, a Republican from Minnesota, cautioned against making new laws before several investigations determine what caused the explosion last April at a Massey Energy mine.

JOHN KLINE: Instead of rushing to legislate without all the facts, I hope we listen to the experts - along with the eventual findings of the investigations I just mentioned - to enact a bill with a clear focus on making mines safer.

Democrats hope to pass a new mine safety bill by the end of the year.

Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Washington.

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