Page images

“Mr. WHEELER. Madam Chairman, overall, I do not think anyone would have any question with the objectives and law itself. But there are a few provisions and I would like to cite one of them to you—there is a provision in the law that all mine cars after a year must be provided with automatic brakes and there are no automatic brakes that can be put on mine cars.

"Mrs. HANSEN. Are they nonexistent?
"Mr. WHEELER. There are none in existence.
"Mrs. HANSEN. What are you going to do about that provision?

"Mr. WHEELER. Maybe we have some consternation in our own organization. I think what we will have to do is to cite them as being in violation of the law, because they will be.

"Mrs. HANSEN. Is anyone in the process of developing automatic brakes?

"Mr. WHEELER. Yes, ma'am. We have met with all the car manufacturers to first find out if there are any brakes, and we found out there are none. And since then we have been talking with them as to how we can get some developed as soon as possible.

"Mrs. Hansen. Has the Department appeared on behalf of this provision before the Education and Labor Committee?

"Mr. WHEELER. We have not gone back to them yet. We will have to after we study all the provisions of the law. We are now studying this law section by section to determine what the problem areas are. This is just one which is obvious on the face of it that I have decided to use. There are others.

“Mrs. HANSEN. Will you please insert in the record other areas of the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act which cause similar problems?

"Mr. WHEELER. Yes, ma'am.” (The information follows:)

"In addition to the matter of the act requirement for car brakes which must be resolved before March 30, 1970, there are other unresolved problems. Among these are :

“1. Sec. 315 of the Act provides that the Secretary may require that rescue chambers, properly sealed and ventilated, be erected at suitable locations in the mine. Such chambers to be equipped with first-aid materials, and adequate supply of air and self-contained breathing equipment, an independent communication system to the surface, and proper accommodations for the persons while awaiting rescue, and other equipment. Where shelters are required, there shall be an approved plan for the erection, maintenance, and revisions of such chambers and an approved training program for the use of the shelter.

"Much of the technology involved in unclear, especially in connection with an integrated standby system. A contract for the development of a total rescue and survival system should be awarded shortly and completed within a year thereafter.

"2. Section 317(e) requires the Secretary to propose standards by December 30, 1970, under which all working places in a mine shall be illuminated by permissible lighting within 18 months after promulgation of the standards.

"The nature and content of these standards is being considered in the light of practicability. Some research may be required and new permissibility standards may have to be developed. These efforts are being carried on at a rapid pace in order to meet the deadlines. It is not certain, however, that the present uncertainties can all be resolved in the available time.

"3. Section 317(j) authorizes requiring electric face equipment, including shuttle cars, be provided with canopies or cabs to protect the miners from roof falls and from rib and face rolls where the height of the coal bed permits.

"Practical designs are under consideration and consideration is being given to determining the minimum height of the coal bed which will permit installation of such devices.

"4. Section 317(g) provides that the Secretary shall require, when technologically feasible, that devices to prevent and suppress ignitions be installed on electric face equipment.

"Research on an ignition suppression system has been carried out in the Bureau's laboratories and experimental mine for several years. We are presently concentrating on converting out basic knowledge into a commercially feasible system. Progress is being made and emphasis placed on the project; nevertheless, it is not possible to set a specific completion date."

It is obvious that the Department's witness is not very familiar with the provisions of the Act on making this criticism. None of the standards referred to in the Department's four numbered paragraphs just quoted requires action by March 30, 1970. In the case of the rescue chambers, the Department, by Secretary Udall explained that he will, in a matter of days, be proposing the first federal health and safety standards ever developed for the Nation's noncoal mines. He said that many of the standards, to be promulgated under authority of the Federal Metal and Nonmetallic Mine Safety Act of 1966, will be mandatory and the Bureau of Mines will be charged with their enforcement.

47-135 0-71-17

“When these standards become effective, “Secretary Udall stated, "the Bureau will be taking on major new responsibilities for the health and safety of some 200,000 workers at non-coal mines, both surface and underground. Add to those the more than 140,000 coal miners for which the Bureau already has some health and safety responsibility, and you have what amounts to a critical mission. Reorganizing the Bureau's health and safety activities for greater efficiency and economy in operation has thus become mandatory."

Sharper definition of research objectives in mine health and safety, and more efficient monitoring of progress toward those objectives, are additional important aims of the reorganization, according to Bureau Director John F. O'Leary. This will be accomplished, he said, by tying operations at the Bureau's Health and Safety Research and Testing Center at Pittsburgh, Pa., more closely to the experience acquired through field offices that have direct responsibility for mine inspection, accident investigation, health and safety training, and related functions.

"The keys to this more effective liaison," O'Leary explained, "are three new top-echelon posts at the headquarters level." These positions, involving both line and staff responsibilities, he named as Assistant Director of Coal Mine Safety, Assistant Director of Metal and Nonmetal Mine Safety, and Assistant Director of Mineral Industry Health.

Each of the new assistant directors will exercise line supervision with regard to his field organization. He will also serve in a staff, or advisory, capacity to the Bureau's Associate Director-Health and Safety, who in turn is responsible to the Director of the Bureau of Mines for the total health and safety program.

In addition, O'Leary said, each assistant director will participate in the technical supervision of appropriate research activities at the Health and Safety Research and Testing Center. In this way, he added, the experience of those working directly with mine health and safety problems can be quickly translated into guidance for those who are seeking solutions.

An additional source of information and advice for use in program planning and review will be provided by a newly created Office of Accident Prevention and Education. Reporting directly to the Associate Director-Health and Safety, this office will be responsible for collecting and analyzing statistics on mine accidents and injuries and job-related illness among miners. It also will conduct studies in the behavioral sciences to gain better insight into the fundamental causes of accidents and to aid in developing more effective safety education and training programs.

O'Leary noted that the Bureau's deputy director, Earl T. Hayes, is currently Acting Associate Director-Health and Safety. The Associate Directorship, as well as the newly established positions, will be filled as promptly as possible, he added.

“Naturally.” O'Leary said, "we want to get people who are as highly qualified as possible for these critically important jobs, and our selections will be made very carefully.” He noted that the organizational changes, of themselves, would not increase the number of positions in the Bureau's Health and Safety Activity. He added however, that broader and more effective programs are being planned and a substantial number of new positions will be required in order to carry them out.

Senator WILLIAMS. The National Independent Coal Operators Association was invited and Mr. John L. Kilcullen, counsel for this organization, is here.

The Bituminous Coal Operators Association was also invited to testify but could not appear. A letter from BCOA will appear at this point in the record.

(The information subsequently supplied follows:)

XI. Temporary Relief

Section 301.15 of the regulations (35 F.R. 5256) provides a procedure for filing applications for temporary relief, except "in the case of a notice issued under section 104 (h) or section 104 (i) of the Act." The reference to section 104(h) is in error. Secton 105(d) of the Act provides that the exception applies to notices ''issued under section 104 (b) or (i)," Please advise us when this section is corrected, and when it is amended to show that such relief is not available in cases of "an order issued under section 104 (a)" of the Act. XII. Notices

Section 301.10 provides that an operator or miner or the miner's representative may file an application "for review of orders and notices." We believe that this provision needs clarification to assure that review of notices is limited only to the reasonableness of the time prescribed therein as is explained in the Senate's section-by-section analysis of the Conference Report (Cong. Rec., December 18, 1969, p. S. 7169) as follows:

"Subsections (a), (b), and (c) establish a procedure for reviewing administratively withdrawal orders issued by an inspector, modifications or terminations of such orders by an inspector and the reasonableness of the time limits in notices, upon request made by an operator or representative of the miners. Upon making the request, the Secretary must undertake a special investigation to ascertain the facts which must include an opportunity for a public hearing pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 554.(Underlining supplied.)

On December 18, 1969, when the Congress adopted the conference report, both the Department and the operators should have been certain of its provisions, but for the threat of a "veto" by the Administration which threat was not quashed until December 30, 1969, when the President signed it. Congress provided an additional delay period of 90 days before the safety standards became effective to enable the Department and the operators to adjust to the new law. This delay was only 30 days less than that recommended by the Department. Based on the Department's performance to date, twice as much time would apparently not have been enough.

The Department's actions, or rather its inaction, has given the operators ammunition to wage war against the new law. It is time that the industry and the Department recognize the fact that the Congress and the public will not tolerate unsafe and unhealthful working conditions in the coal mines. Both expect, so long as the program remains in Interior, that the Department will act reasonably and responsibly to administer the law and to obtain quickly the personnel to do so. To date, Congress, the public, and, most important, the miners and many operators have been disappointed. We hope to hear from you on these vital issues by May 4, 1970. Sincerely,

JOHN N. DENT, Chairman.




(For Release to PM's January 15, 1969) A reorganization of mineral industry health and safety functions within the Bureau of Mines was announced today by Secretary of the Interior Stewart L. Udall.

The changed setup was described by Secretary Udall as “one result of our intensive review of the Bureau's health and safety activities," which he said had been underway for several months. Primary aims, he said, are to modernize and more effectively coordinate traditional Bureau programs in mine health and safety and related fields, and to prepare it for the assumption of even broader responsibilities.


The Honorable Harrison A. Williams, Jr.
Page 2

August 5, 1970

There is also great confusion among the mine operators as to the requirements for compliance with particular provisions of the law. This is due in part to the uncertain status of the various regulations and to interpretations issued by the Depart-ment of the Interior. There is a great need for basic research as prescribed in the Act to develop many important answers to the difficult questions that confront everyone involved in the administration of the Act. Such problems as the use of bleeder systems to eliminate the methane or to provide ventilation; study of explosions and their control; speed of air passage and volume of air needed present never ending crises in the effort to improve the health and safety of the miners.

There are also certain provisions in the law which, in the opinion of our safety experts who have carefully studied these provisions, need to be modified or revised in the interest of inproved health and safety. Congress foresaw these possibilities when it delegated the Secretary of the Interior the authority under Section 101 of the Act and under Section 301(c) of the Act to promulgate, revise, and modify standards in the interest of health and safety. We have urged the Secretary and we have filed these revisions and modifications. These petitions seem to be bogged down in red tape and technical legal procedures.

There are in addition certain statutory requirements which cannot be effectively carried out because of the lack of available equipment, technology, and personnel. This has had the effect of placing mine operators in the unfortunate position of being cited for violations which they have no available means of correcting.

It is not my intention in this letter to be critical either of the Congress or of the administration. We would like, however, to emphasize what we believe is the necessity for a cooperative effort on all sides to achieve a maximum program for the benefit of the coal miner. This will require a great deal of understanding and effort on the part of all the interests concerned.

We would appreciate the opportunity to review the transscript of your hearings this week as soon as it is available and to make appropriate comment in writing which we would hope could be made a part of your official record.


Goseph E. Mood

Senator WILLIAMS. Mr. Kilcullen, we appreciate your being here today and you may proceed as you desire. Do we have copies of your statement ?



Mr. KILCULLEN. Senator, I didn't get notice of this until yesterday afternoon or actually yesterday morning so I didn't have time to have copies made.

Senator WILLIAMS. You had better bring the microphone over to you closer.

Very well, proceed.
Mr. KilcULLEN. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.

The National Independent Coal Operators Association (NICOA) is an association representing primarily small- and medium-size coal operators located primarily in the Appalachian coal producing regions. It is estimated that the independent segment of the industry produces about 150 million tons of coal a year or approximately one-fourth of the national output of bituminous coal.

I will try to outline for the committee the problems these small mines have had in attempting to meet the new health and safety standards which have gone into effect for coal mines under the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969, and to describe the experience our members have had in connection with enforcement activities and procedures of the Bureau of Mines.

The preponderant number of these mines are drift mines, that is mines located in the side of a hill or mountain above the water table, and having a horizontal entry into the mountain. Because the coal seams are above the water table, most-if not all of the methane gas which might otherwise be present in these seams has long since escaped through cracks and fissures in the earth's surface. As a result, these mines have traditionally been classified as nongassy,

During the hearings on the coal mine health and safety legislation last year, representatives of NICOA appeared and pointed out to the congressional committee that there are substantial differences between these small drift mines and the larger deep shaft mines which are hundreds of feet below the surface of the earth and urged that these differences be taken into account in formulating safety standards, ventilation requirements and electrical equipment requirements.

The bill as finally adopted, however, imposed across-the-board standards on all underground mines and disregarded the differences we had attempted to point out.

As anticipated, this has created serious problems for the small mines in their efforts to come into compliance with the new standards. In a great many instances the equipment necessary for strict compliance is not available for purchase, and qualified engineers and other personnel needed to perform work on underground high voltage distribution systems to conduct respirable dust surveys and to perform other functions required under the new act are not available.

After the act was enacted by Congress, NICOA immediately took steps to conduct seminars to acquaint its members with the provisions of the law and also distributed a substantial quantity of educational material.

« PreviousContinue »