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5. (a) Will Interior abandon the penalty schedule in the March 28 regulations, as amended ?
(0) Will it substitute a procedure that conforms with the law and gives the violator an opportunity to know, through the medium of a proposed de cision, the factors considered by Interior in assessing a civil penalty before
he decides whether or not to request a public hearing? 6. (a) Will Interior forever cease to have private tripartate meetings with representatives of the large operators, the independent operators, and the union?
(0) Will it insist that all such meetings in the future be public or, at the very least, be on the record for all to review later? 7. (a) Has Interior now finally formalized an inspector training program for all to scrutinize?
(b) When will Interior have enough inspectors to conduct all the re quired spot inspections at hazardous mines and the four annual inspections
at all mines? 8. (a) What is the current status of the Virginia law suit?
(b) Will there be a hearing next month by a three-judge court on the injunction?
(c) Has Interior entered into stipulations as the court "admonished" it to do only last month? 9. Will Interior commit itself that from now on it will have available expert witnesses at all future court hearings under the Act?
10. What funds have been committed and when to carry out the specialized research directives set forth in section 301 (b) of the Act on such items as splicing and use of trailing cables, roof control, and improved methods of measuring gas?
11. What is the current availability of the mine rescuer?
STATEMENTS OF HON. FRED RUSSELL, UNDER SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR; HOLLIS M. DOLE, ASSISTANT SECRETARY, MINERAL RESOURCES; HENRY WHEELER, JR., DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE BUREAU OF MINES FOR HEALTH AND SAFETY; JAMES WESTFIELD, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR COAL MINE HEALTH AND SAFETY; MITCHELL MELICH, SOLICITOR; AND WILLIAM A. GERSHUNY, ASSISTANT SOLICITOR, TRIAL BRANCH
Mr. RUSSELL. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, we are here in response to Senator Williams' telegram request, and we thank you for the invitation that we appear here.
I am Fred Russell, Under Secretary of the Department of the Interior.
With me on my left are the Honorable Hollis M. Dole, Assistant Secretary, Mineral Resources; Mr. Henry P. Wheeler, Jr., Deputy Director of the Bureau of Mines for Health and Safety. We have other people behind them. To his left, we have James Westfield, Assistant Director for Coal Mine Health and Safety.
On my right are Mr. Mitchell Melich, Solicitor, and Mr. William A. Gershuny, Assistant Solicitor, Trial Branch, Division of Mine Health and Safety, and others seated behind them.
With your permission, we should like to begin with a statement to be made by Assistant Secretary Hollis M. Dole.
Senator WILLIAMS. Mr. Dole.
Mr. DOLE. Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee on Labor, we are appreciative of this opportunity which you have afforded to us to inform you and the public generally of the significant and constructive progress that we are making to implement the provisions of the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969, and thus to
achieve the needed health and safety revolution that has been too long delayed in the coal mines of the United States.
We have not been oblivious to the criticism that has been so widely publicized in the press and elsewhere about our alleged failures in this regard. We have listened to it, and, where it has been constructive, we have responded to it in our plans and actions.
We have not, until now, attempted to respond to the criticism verbally, because we believe that it is more important to direct our efforts toward the accomplishment of our health and safety objectives—and, further, we believe that demonstrated performance is a more effective response than a debate in the news media.
Senator WILLIAMS. We would agree with that, certainly.
Mr. DOLE. The coal miners have been hearing only one side of the story and, understandably, their faith in the Bureau of Mines has been shaken. This is most unfortunate. It will take some time to restore this confidence which is essential to the success of our efforts. The needed improvements in coal mine health and safety cannot be fully accomplished without the understanding, cooperation, and support of the miners.
The Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 was enacted on December 30, 1969; and the safety standards in the act became effective on March 30, 1970. The health standards became effective on June 30.
Simply stated, the act required a safety revolution in the coal mines within 90 days, and a health revolution to follow in an additional 90 days—and it required the Bureau of Mines to have an immediate fully developed capability to enforce the standards and thus assure the arrival of both revolutions on schedule at the times specified.
In establishing the very short deadlines in the act, the Congress was saying that it wanted compliance as soon as possible and that it would not tolerate any delays which could not be fully explained and justified.
With this position, the Department of Interior is in complete agreement. The health and safety of mineworkers is too important to be compromised in any way—by delays or otherwise.
Unfortunately, the publicity concerning the development-and, eventually, the enactment-of the new law centered almost entirely upon the improvements it would bring about, and very little was said about the time that would be required to achieve them.
Consequently, the mineworkers and the public generally were encouraged to expect the improvements in mine health and safety immediately, and because they have not been achieved so quickly, they are dismayed. They should not be so dismayed, because the health and safety revolution in the mines is underway; their expectations will be fulfilled; but it will take longer than 90 or 180 days.
It will take longer because there is simply not enough manpower and equipment available to get the job done immediately. Some of the equipment required by the law does not yet exist, and much of the equipment that does exist is insufficient to supply all at one time the 2,800 underground coal mines that are subject to the act.
There is also a shortage of coal mine engineers, technicians and inspectors.
The existence of these problems is a cold, hard fact—not speculation—and they must be met and overcome before our mine health and safety objectives can be fully realized.
Under the circumstances, where it is impossible to achieve full compliance with the law immediately, the Department could not base its plans and actions upon such an objective. We adopted instead the objective of achieving the greatest possible improvement in coal mine health and safety in the shortest possible time within the limits of the available manpower and equipment and every decision and every action taken by this Department in the implementation of the law has been directed toward that single objective.
It is not true that we are dragging our feet. We believe that we have made as much progress as possible under the circumstances and, more importantly, that our efforts are paying off in the form of improvements that are already underway in the mines which make the mines healthier and safer now than they have ever been before.
We say this in the face of statistics that have been pointed out by our critics to indicate otherwise. Despite statements to the contrary, fatalities in coal mines are not increasing. They are decreasingwhether you measure them in numbers of fatalities, fatalities per man hours worked, or fatalities per million tons produced.
In the first 6 months of this calendar year, there were 101 fatalities in all coal mines as compared with 105 in the same period of time last year. The fatality rate per million man hours declined from 0.89 to 0.80, and the fatality rate per million tons declined from 0.38 to 0.34.
This decrease occurred despite a particularly bad record in June when there were 22 fatalities—14 in underground mines, seven in strip mines, and one in a mechanical cleaning plant.
These rates are still much too high, but it is also much too soon to measure the effect of the new law in such terms. The slight improvement in the first 6 months of this year is not indicative of the law's effectiveness any more than a slight increase in fatalities would be indicative of its ineffectiveness.
The payoff will come when the effect of the improvements now being made in the mines is felt; and we confidently expect coal mine fatality and injury rates to decline further until, by the time the law is a year old, there will be no doubt about the effectiveness of either the law or our enforcement of it.
SAFETY STANDARDS AND REGULATIONS
The mandatory safety standards in the act are designated to be interim standards to be enforced until superseded by improved standards that may be promulgated by the Secretary of the Interior under the provisions of section 101 of the act.
On March 28, the Secretary published extensive coal mine safety regulations in the Federal Register to codify and supplement these interim standards, many of which contain qualifications such as “Approved by the Secretary”; “to be prescribed by the Secretary," et cetera.
In order for the Bureal of Mines to enforce these standards, it is essential that the inspectors know what is acceptable with regard to these qualifications, and it is desirable that the mine operators and workers also be so informed.
After a tremendous effort on the part of many Bureau of Mines experts who participated in the preparation of these regulations, they were ready for publication late in March. Because of the urgency of the need to make them public and because we do not consider that they contained any new or improved standards, they were promulgated immediately upon publication in the Federal Register. Copies were then distributed to all of the coal mine operators subject to the act.
On March 30, the Bureau of Mines began to make inspections under the new law, citing violations with reference to the March 28 regulations.
On April 23, a Federal judge in Abingdon, Va., issued an order restraining the Bureau of Mines from enforcing the regulations, and they have not been used as a reference for citing violations since that time. They have continued to be used by Bureau of Mines inspectors, however, as a guide in determining whether or not operators are in compliance with the statutory standards, and violations of the statutory standards have been cited accordingly.
Consequently, the court order restraining the Bureau from enforcing the regulations has had only a minimal effect upon the enforcement of the law.
Because the procedure followed in promulgating the regulations has been challenged by the plaintiffs in the court at Abingdon and by others, and the need for some changes has become evident through experience obtained in their application, the Department has decided to publish the regulations again with the needed revisions and to afford interested parties 30 days to comment. They are at the Federal Register now, and they should be ready for promulgation by about October 1.
They shall include for the first time regulations for recording, reporting and investigating accidents in the mines, whether they result in injury or not, and regulations for change rooms, bathhouse and sanitary facilities, potable water, and emergency medical assistance.
Until these regulations are finally promulgated, we will continue to enforce the safety standards in the law, itself.
I have a copy of the regulations that have been sent to the Federal Register, and I would like to present it to you now as a supplement to my statement today. Senator WILLIAMS. It will be received for the record. (The information referred to follows:)
Notice is hereby given that in accordance with the pro
visions of Sections 103(e) and ill of the Federal coal mine
Health and Safety Act of 1969 (P.L.-91-173) and pursuant to
the authority vested in the Secretary of the Interior under
Section 508 of the Act, it is proposed to add Part 80, as
set forth below, to Subchapter 0, Chapter I of Title 30, which
shall apply to all coal mines and which provides procedures
with respect to notification, investigation, reporting and
recording of accidents occurring in coal mines.
Interested persons may submit written comments, suggestions
or objections to the Director, Bureau of Mines, Washington, D. C. 20240, no later than 30 days following publication of
this notice in the Federal Register.
Secretary of the Interior