The head of the U.S. agency that oversees mine safety told lawmakers Tuesday that his agency would start using a long neglected authority to go to federal court to seek orders to shut down mines deemed unsafe.
Joe Main, the Assistant Secretary of Labor who heads the Mine Safety and Health Administration, said that decision was an early response to the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster in West Virginia which killed 29 miners.
An excerpt of NPR correspondent Brian Naylor's report for the network's newscast:
BRIAN: He told senators he intends to exercise the agencies powers to seek a court order to close dangerous mines, a power the agency has long had, but never used.
MAIN: Everyplace I went in the past several weeks I was asked a simple question: "Why didn't you shut that mine down?"
BRIAN: Main wants lawmakers to give the agency subpeona powers to better investigate safety violations and tougher criminal penalties against negligent mine owners. The mining industry testified the agency has the authority it needs to protect miners safety.