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Senate Allocates $3.8 Million For Mine Safety IT

Emergency funding to update an IT system that processes mine safety violations is a response to the mining disaster that killed 29 in April.
In response to a mining disaster in April that killed 29 miners, the Senate wants to allocate $3.8 million to update an IT system that processes mine safety violations.

In a report that accompanied the 2010 Disaster Relief and Summer Jobs Act that passed the Senate May 27, the Senate recommended the funds to reduce the backlog of dispute cases at the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission. The commission acts independently to rule on legal disputes between mine operators and the government based on laws created by the 1977 Federal Mine Safety and Health Act.

According to the report, the FMSHRC should "make every effort to support the timely processing of contested citations, particularly for operators that have the highest proportion of significant and substantial citations or an unacceptable health and safety record."

Specifically, the funding should go to upgrading the IT system processing cases so they can be processed more quickly and so that officials can better track individual cases. The report recommends the commission develop "the most efficient system possible" to do this.

An April 6 explosion at a coal mine in West Virginia operated by Massey Energy killed 29 of 61 miners present in the mine at the time. During the investigation following the disaster, federal officials testified that Massey did not comply with mine safety regulations because citations for previous violations had not yet been processed, according to published reports.

The FMSHRC is expected to submit a report within six months after the funds are activated to present options for technology upgrades, along with their feasibility and associated costs, according to the Senate report. Once activated, the commission has a year to spend the money.

Before the funds can become available, however, the House of Representatives and Senate must reconcile differences between a version of the bill that passed the House March 24 without funding for the FMSHRC, and the bill that the Senate approved.