The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Opinion

August 18, 2010

Too late

— On Monday, the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration said it was beefing up enforcement of ventilation standards in mines.

Better late than never, but nonetheless, too late.

In a news release, MSHA director Joe Main said the notices were prompted by testimony given in Beckley during a May congressional hearing on the Upper Big Branch mine disaster.

“These standards are not voluntary, and every mine operator in the country is on notice that MSHA will not tolerate violations of ventilation standards,” the statement from Main said.

Stepping up enforcement of mine ventilation regulations to ensure that companies are complying with the law seems rather significant to us.

Why hasn’t that been the norm all along?

There actually have been a litany of reasons given as to why, perhaps the most offensive of those explanations being the reportedly snail’s-pace appeals process that lets operators keep mines operating while battling out enforcement issues and citations on paper and in legal hearings.

We defer to past editorials we have written on this broad subject in that the No. 1 goal should be making the mines as safe as possible. Again, we all know there will continue to be fatalities no matter how stringent the laws and the enforcement of those regulations may be.

What we’re convinced of, though, is that the present system is broken and needs fixed.

It’s up to our elected leaders, the federal and state agencies responsible for mines, the mine operators, the union and the miners themselves to see to its fixing.

If they don’t, Monday’s announcement amounts to nothing more than rhetoric — and we’ve all heard enough of that already.

Being proactive, not reactive, is the only way the problems can be effectively addressed when it comes to mine safety.

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