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tv   [untitled]    April 5, 2012 3:30pm-4:00pm EDT

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control. it be potential violation process that measures both their safety and their compliance record and puts them on a program. those are two tools which i think i have been very effective. it took us three months to get there. i think we need to look at a great tool that gives us a swift ability to shut them down when they're that bad. we still have a gap to get us there.
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we're still short. the gentleman's time has expired. >> thank you. i've been serving on this committee for 36 years trying to make safety a more important issue for our miners. when i came on this committee, carl perkins was chairman of this committee. we had a meeting on mine safety. i was shocked 33 years later on what's happening. i can recall one of the representatives of the mine owners testified how safe and how safety was such a high priority.
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the person went so far, carl perkins was such a kind and gentle person finally said, when i was a child my daddy put me on the back of a buck board and took me over to the next town for the funeral of my cousin who was killed with others in one of your mines. that's 36 years later. and i feel that we should have made much more progress. in 36 years, we fought wars in that time. we spend money here and there. but 36 years later i still heard the same stories and the sam attitude very often of the
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owners of trying to get by as cheap as they can so they can make greater profits. what area should we strengthen to make sure that they're brought into rein. stronger enforcement, greater penalties. where would you emphasize the greatest effort of this congress and working with you to make sure that these people really put in mind the safety of their workers? >> you know, i firmly believe that there are a number of mine operators in this country that do manage their systems to have systems in place to operate under the mine act. that doesn't mean that they always are totally successful.
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but i believe that many mine operators try to do what's right. if you take a look at the impact inspection list. mines showing up on violations, those are showing you some of the mines that are operating outside the mainstream. dealing with some of those mines, i'm going to start down the list, i do believe that there needs to be more respect of the law and a greater fear of the penalties that exist to deter them from continuing to do the conduct that we're finding with advanced notice and with some of these mines still operating without enough curtain up to control methane that could have another coal mine dust explosion. on a regulatory front, we have a list of recommendations from the internal review team. we're going to take a look to figure out what it is we need to do to do better. we're doing a lot of things differently to make sure that we have the best inspection agency
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that the miners should expect. at the end of the the day, the legislation on the hill we talked about something today that this congress needs to take a look at. you cannot undercut this staff and its agency to the point where you're scrambling with trainees trying to get into main mines and expect to have a competent inspection program. in going forward, i think that's something that we really have to take a good look at. >> ill really think that fear of the lord is the beginning of wisdom. i think that put a little fear that the government means business. we just don't use ink, we put our spirit, our believes, and
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the dignity of every human being when we write those laws. >> is the gentleman's time has expired. mr. wallberg. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you mr. mains for being here. i'd like to highlight an issue related to mining training cited in internal review that seems startling to me. in my getting up to speed over the course of this past year. i've had the opportunity to view mining operations in north dakota, surface mining. have had the opportunity to go 1200 feet below detroit and see the is all mines, which is a total different ball game. looked down 1200 feet into an iron ore operation in marquette. and then to be with you to see your home state in a coal mine 800, 900 feet below and eight miles back into that long wall.
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i know i'm not a miner. e i know you are a miner and you understand that. i know you weren't around leading when this all happened. but as i look at the record, upper big branch was operating under a petition for modification to permit mining through any oil and gas wells. the petition was granted according to the record on october 16th 1995. and the mine was required to submit a training plan 60 days after the petition became final. as i understand it, that plan would have included initial and refresher miner training requirements. so forth and so on. but the internal review found that the training plan was never submitted.
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>> one of things you'll find is really just looking back through everything that we could find that was wrong here to get it fixed. i don't think there's any other internal review that looked back beyond a couple years. that was one of the things we asked folks to go back and take a hard look they found. in 1995 they didn't implement the plan. i think it's pretty much that simple. i believe that somehow in 1995 that provision was put in the petition modification and apparently we could find no follow up to require the operator do do -- i don't know if there's a plant put in place by the operator. there was none incorporated that the team found. >> then moving forward. we look at the past to plan for
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the future. i guess my question then comes to you, does msha intend to undertake a comprehensive review of all mining plans? to determine this isn't a widespread problem. that what happened at upper big branch and the fact that this training wasn't done, requirement wasn't in place and msha didn't ask for it, is that widespread? are we worried there are other mines operating in a similar situation? the problem that i think we face as an agency was that there is a lot of policies and procedures that was put in place. i'll use that along with the plans that somehow a lot of kmupgss were broke down somewhere in the back years in this agency. i think there's different reasons for that. one as far as policies they decentralized the whole policy review process. on the training programs we may or may not find others back in
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those years. what we're troying to do is start from fresh and identify everything that we can. we're training everybody to those things. the findings of the internet review team of the things that came out of it, we've already had a set through with all our district four and district 12 staff and the district managers. we're -- >> but are we looking for this problem right now? even as we're training for it. are we looking for it that there might be some ready to explode? >> as far as that be kind of training plan, we'll go back and look. i know we're looking at a ton of things. i'm make sure that's on the list of things we're looking at. one of the things i'd like to say. this is the first committee i testified for when i was assistant secretary. i'll never forget that. it's an awesome experience to take your first trip to the hill. when i was hear, one of the
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things i was laying out was the path i was going to take with this agency. this was two months before upper big branch hit. in february of 2010. some of the things that i had talked about at that time was the fact the day i took this job, 55 percent of the msha inspectors had has two years of experience. 38% of the inspectors had two years experience. one of the things i decided to the was to bring in every one of our field officer soorpzs, set up a training program to train them on how to be a supervisor. we had complaints about sknssy. rightfully so. to figure out a way to get quickly those who managed their whole enforcement program under control. we had that -- we were kicking off the first training right as
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ubb struck. the second thing is to take a look at how we're training our folks and how we are identifying the auditing. are we doing enough self-its in this agency to find the things like we're talk about. >> i'm sorry, the gentleman's time has expired. mr. tierney. >> thank you. i'll yield my time to the ranking member. >> secretary main, mr. kelly was discussing with you the fact that there were 48 shutdown -- d 2 inspections shut downs of upper big branch mine. 52 weeks in the year, 48 of those apparently ended up with shutting down order at some point in this mine. then he said, there's nothing you can do. you started to lay out the idea that you could do go and seek an injunction, which when you did nit the case of the freedom mine took you about throw months.
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if this mine continued to operate under consistent pattern that would be 12 violations. so that doesn't look like a very good remedy if you're a miner that you're going to get to spend another three months in a mine with that track record while you go and see if you can put together enough of a finding to have an injunction. so once again, we're lefts here because of some glitch in the law. so failure to get from one point to the other. the miners are left in an unsafe condition. >> i'm here to tell you we can use all the tools -- >> that's my worry. an unsafe mine isn't shut down. >> we don't have a silver bullet. >> i want an effective tool.
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you've made it very clear you're working very hard to piece together the authorities you have under the law. it appears to me and that you can't get to where we would need to provide that protection because you don't have subpoena power in the case of cooking the books and you don't have authority to keep from racking up 48 d 2 citations. >> there is point of which we lack the ability to go in and shut down a mine because of its overall conditions. we can use our tools to selectively and with regard to the specific issue at hand to take enforcement action. i think what you're describing doesn't exist. >> you issued the results of your inspections this was in
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january and you -- in the release here you referred to coal creek mining. you said the agency's team secured or monitored the phones during the inspections issues. >> that's the conditions they found. >> in that case, did you have a finding of prior notice or motte? >> that i'm sure. >> would the gentleman yield? >> we have a dangerous process and somehow we can't get to the remedy because you just keep going through shutting down,
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opening up and you continue to find these unwarranted hazards. >> i believe that there was a mine that we identified in the testimony that i presented. there was a mine that we did a number of impact inspections at. i think about seven. >> very quickly follow up on the gentleman's question. could the operator of the mine shut it down. >> mr. blankenship could have shut this mine down. they could have decided not to provide advance notice of the inspections underground to the mining operator -- to the mining personnel. so we could have had a fair view of the conditions there. we have to understand, it's the mine operator's responsibility to run the mine safety and have programs in place to protect miners. many of them do every day of the week. some don't and some like upper big branch, really the miners pay just a hell of a price,
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excuse my french whenever they don't. >> you point out bhavr number of shifts that mine operator, that irresponsible mine operator can get in between the next shut down, you thought it was between $ 00,000 a shift to run. >> the gentleman's time has experienced. >> thank you. thank you mr. main for being back here. i want to focus on the internal review. it seems the tone and bretd of that document almost shielded headquarters on this. it's not until page 193 that the report speakers directly to headquarter deficiencies. do you have a comment on that? >> i think the way the policy is constructed, it has the focus of
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the investigation basically starting with the mine and working itself back. and this is a process that's been in place since in terms of the process for conducting internal reviews. >> the problem i'm seeing in reading the report is with th mt limited to describing four. the other tools you're starting to use i would advise and ask that your looking into restructuring these reports. we really need to go back and retool the way that we do internal reviews.
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>> on page 66, it states quote, the decision not to per sue 16 -- rather than the merits of the case. were you aware of this, was headquarters aware? >> well, i doubt if they were because basically what happens is the district's -- the district inspectors would be the ones would normally identify the cases. they would then transfer that information over to the special investigation branch. the special investigations branch would assess those and deal with the district in terms of what their recommendations were. >> so you don't know? >> i don't think how far, i sort of believed that what was happening once there's determinations made about what they could or couldn't handle. chemoing in mind, out of all six of those, i think with a thorough review, the internal
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review found that six of those was notorious. i'm not sure on a normal day that the district staff would really have identified all six of those. in this that they went beyond discussions. >> this hearing focused on short-term experience and on passage page 78, there appears to be an 11-year gap that new elements be included in the training plan. and the word never included -- and the agency failed to notice this during an 11-year period. it seems to me, this was more than just near and short-term inexperience. >> i think that there's a lot of things that played in. just like the 1995 plan. you know, i can't explain why that was not implemented. some of the things that -- >> it just seems the headquarters in the district missed some of this for far too long. and, again, i would appreciate -- i used to be a regulator, used to -- not in the
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coal industry, but for other industries. and these would be warning signs to me to go back and review processes. let me yield the rest of my time to mr. wahlberg. >> i thank the gentleman. going along that train here, assuming the fact that -- knowing the fact we had a bad actor as an operator of that mine, who may indeed have covered certain things so that your inspectors couldn't see them, yet the internal review found many instances where m sha inspectors observed her i couldn't say problems but did not issue a warning. for example, cited for faelg to install the level of roof support. page 83, the panel concluded, and i quote, with the proper quantity of air, there would not have been the methane, there be the fuel sources for the gas explosion. my question, how can we be confident the inspectors are
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going to find these failures in the future? >> i think with regard to both of those, i provided some insight of those earlier. on the tailgate issue. there was actually only one inspection that took place involving the roof supports. the other inspectors were there, it was over a three-day period when they went in and shut down -- i don't know if you caught that part of the story or not. but when the inspectors arrived at the mine site, with the car load of inspectors, went underground and issued a closure order over the ventilation system. and that's what they were there looking at. and they had the mine down for three days over ventilation issue. so you know, those were not all -- i think there's, you know, some differences about what may have been in the internal review report and what was in the other report. as far as -- >> the gentleman's time has expired. mr. rayhall. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i appreciate your courtesies and
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that of the ranking member that allow me to be part of this panel today. ubb mine does sit in my home county so the disaster that occurred in 2010 hits very close to home on multiple fronts. beyond knowing with certainty, as we now do, what caused that tragedy, i do ask for two things of this committee. first, that the committee look responsibly at what the congress should do to prevent another ubb, and then just do it. if that means legislation, and i believe it does, and legislation should be passed, i do not excuse msha's failures, but the congress should not with hold life-saving authorities as some penalty because the only people penalized will be our miners. second, whatever action is taken ensures that bad actor company executives, and they are a very minute minority who make the decisions and set the policies
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that lead to tragedies like ubb, are no longer able to hide from the law or to exploit the weaknesses of msha as the gentle lady from california referred to earlier. the families of miners are sick of watching lower-level employees take the fall for upper management. in the case of ubb, investigation witnesses have testified that massey ceo don blankenship received reports as often as every 30 minutes or more of every day. of every day of the week. about the production at that mine. what happened at ubb is absolutely criminal. and the congress should do everything in its power to stop the protection and in fact the reward over this kind of behavior n. response to numerous questions, especially from the majority about why msha didn't shut down this mine, mr. don blankship himself could have shut it down quicker than any person on the faith of the
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earth. none of us ever want to see another disaster like ubb happen again. and with that stated, i do have a question i would like to ask mr. many, and perhaps it's a fall-up. but investigation after investigation points to the fact that msha does need more staff. we know it was a systemic problem that occurred. you do need more highly trained staff. and that the existing staff is often spread too thin, trying to address too many needs. in southern west virginia, you have split the former district largely to address these kinds of problems, creating district 12 in june of last year. and i understand that both districts are -- neither district, rather, is fully staffed shall though msha is working toward that. this concerns me, and i'd like to know, mr. mane, what msha is doing to ensure both districts are fully staffed and we have a sufficient number of specialists to review technical issues like
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ventilation, and what resources does the agency need to make sure that both of these district offices are functioning at an optimum level and we are able to retain employees with sufficient experience. >> thank you, congressman. i think we split the district about june, i believe, of last year. >> that's correct. >> and actually, we moved into the msha academy. we're looking for office space to move into, so we can expand. probably going to be taking more and more of the academy space. but kevin strickland is on tap to figure out -- we've got a number that we're moving to. we're ramping up, we're finding space for those. and we still have a ways to go, as you said, to move some more folks in there to get where we want to be. and we are providing additional support from the outside to get there. but i would hope, by within the next three or four months, that we have both of those districts ramped up where we have a full
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complement of staff. it is -- this is staffing within msha, there's people bidding from other areas and we have moved some folks from district 4 to district 12. but this will be staffed up with the -- i think more experienced folks than we had before. one of the benefits of this hiring of 2007/2008 was the crew we brought in was some of the most experienced mining people we have. of i think about an average of about 15 years mining experience. so that is a benefit we have as we get the procedures trained into them as far as the agency requirements. but we're moving quickly to try to get that fully staffed. >> okay. let me ask one last question. earlier, you mentioned that rock dust samples were taken out at ubb mine on march 15th, taken to a lab. >> right. >> and that the report from that lab was not back until post ubb.
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>> right. >> disaster. why the lag time, and is there still lag time in such analysis of reports? >> when i took this job, i got a lot of surprises. and one of the surprises was we had a lab that handled a rock dust sampling that was actually under a district which is actually not a national lab in the district for control. and it was a lab that was actually one of the responsibilities of the district itself. what we did is we have pulled that lab out. it's now a national lab. we have staffed it up. we have put more resources in terms of the sampling equipment, and we're doing much faster sampling now. one of the things that was going on with the samples, it was a bit of delay at that time, was they were doing some experimental research with this cdm device that's being developed to try to figure out if that's going to be a quick tool to be able to quick sample. so that was part of the delay that was involved in that. >> the gentleman's time has
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expired. dr. bouchon. >> thank you, secretary, for being here today. and i grew up in a coal mining community. my dad was a united mine worker for 37 years. and any time a disaster like this happens, it hits close to home, because basically everyone i grew up with and everyone i knew were coal miners. so with that, i'm interested in finding out, it says the internal review the abatement time for the one respirable was 30 days when the allowable was 7 days. why was msha setting deadlines weeks beyond what was allowed? i think one of the things that we found from the internal review was two things. one is that the mining company was abusing the system, and that we were not doing enough to keep up with the system. and some of those delays, i don't think, should have been in place. i think that there was extensions.

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