Holding industry's hand, which is what the Bush Administration's "compliance assistance" approach amounts to, is no substitute for tough enforcement of tough rules.They are also understandably skeptical about how Senate leadership will address the bipartisan mine safety legislation introduced last week.
The Courier Journal thinks a bill that protects families' interests, speeds up accident notification, fixes a broken mine rescue system and mandates shelters underground, tougher rules for sealing abandoned areas, action to prevent conveyor-belt fires, better communication and tracking systems, an adequate supply of self-contained self-rescue devices and stiff fines -- would be perfectly appropriate.
A bipartisan deal in the Senate prompted Kentucky's Mitch McConnell to say he is pleased that committee members have agreed on something to improve mine safety. He added, "I look forward to carefully reviewing their proposal to make sure it takes the appropriate steps to protect the thousands of Kentuckians working in our coal mines." (Emphasis added.)
There are two ways to read that last part. The question is, "appropriate" from whose perspective? The miners and their advocates? The coal industry and its naysayers? Or federal regulators and their overseers, the most important of whom is Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, who is Sen. McConnell's wife?
Any broad, aggressive bill will throw into sharp relief the inadequate job MSHA has done under Ms. Chao's stewardship.