Text: H.R.5432 — 109th Congress (2005-2006)All Bill Information (Except Text)

There is one version of the bill.

Text available as:

Shown Here:
Introduced in House (05/19/2006)


109th CONGRESS
2d Session
H. R. 5432

To amend the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 to improve the safety of miners.


IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
May 19, 2006

Mrs. Capito (for herself, Mr. Rahall, and Mr. Mollohan) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Education and the Workforce


A BILL

To amend the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 to improve the safety of miners.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. Short title.

This Act may be cited as the “Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006” or the “MINER Act”.

SEC. 2. Emergency preparedness.

Section 316 of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (30 U.S.C. 876) is amended—

(1) in the section heading by adding at the end the following: “and emergency response plans”;

(2) by inserting “(a)” after the section designation;

(3) by adding at the end the following:

“(b)(1) Each underground coal mine operator shall carry out on a continuing basis a program to improve accident preparedness and response at each mine. Not later than 60 days after the date of enactment of the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006, each underground coal operator shall develop and adopt a written accident response plan that complies with this subsection with respect to each mine of the operator, and shall periodically update such plan to reflect changes in the operation of the mine, advances in technology, or other relevant considerations. Each such operator shall make the accident response plan available to the miners and the miners’ representatives. Such accident response plan shall—

“(A) provide for the evacuation of all individuals endangered by an emergency; and

“(B) provide for the maintenance of individuals trapped underground in the event that miners are not able to evacuate the mine.

“(2) The accident response plan developed under paragraph (1) shall be subject to review and approval by the Secretary. The Secretary shall periodically review each such plan not less than once every 6 months and in such reviews shall consider all comments submitted by miners and miners’ representatives and intervening advancements in science and technology. In determining whether to approve a particular plan the Secretary shall take into consideration all comments submitted by miners or their representatives and must determine that the plan—

“(A) affords miners a level of safety at least consistent with the existing standards, including standards mandated by law and regulation;

“(B) reflects the most credible scientific research;

“(C) is technologically feasible, makes use of current commercially available technology, and accounts for the specific physical characteristics of the mine; and

“(D) reflects the improvements in mine safety gained from experience under this Act and other worker safety and health laws.

“(3) To be approved under paragraph (2), an accident response plan shall include the following:

“(A) The plan shall provide for a redundant means of communications with the surface and rescue teams for persons underground, such as secondary telephone or equivalent two-way communication.

“(B) Consistent with commercially available technology and with the physical constraints, if any, of the mine, the plan shall provide for above ground personnel to determine the current, or immediately pre-accident, location of all underground personnel. any system so utilized shall be functional, reliable, and calculated to remain serviceable in a post-accident setting.

“(C) The plan shall provide for—

“(i) emergency supplies of breathable air for individuals trapped underground sufficient to maintain such individuals for a sustained period of time;

“(ii) caches of self-rescuers of not less than 2 hours for each miner to be kept in escape ways from the deepest work areas to the surface at a distance of no further than an average miner could walk in 30 minutes;

“(iii) a maintenance schedule for checking the reliability of self rescuers, retiring older self-rescuers first, and introducing new self-rescuer technology, such as units with interchangeable air or oxygen cylinders not requiring doffing to replenish airflow and units with supplies great than 60 minutes, as they are approved by the Secretary and become available on the market; and

“(iv) training for each miner in proper procedures for donning self-rescuers to be conducted not less than once per quarter, switching from one unit to another, and ensuring proper fit.

“(D) The plan shall provide for the use of flame-resistant directional lifelines or equivalent systems in escapeways to enable evacuation. Such requirement shall apply upon the replacement of existing lifelines, or, in the case of lifelines in working sections, upon the earlier of the replacement of such lifelines or 3 years after the date of enactment of the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006.

“(E) The plan shall provide a training program for emergency procedures described in the plan which will not diminish the requirements for mandatory health and safety training currently required under section 115.

“(F) The plan shall set out procedures for coordination and communication between the operator, mine rescue teams, and local emergency response personnel and make provisions for familiarizing local rescue personnel with surface functions that may be required in the course of mine rescue work.

“(G) The plan shall provide for—

“(i) the implementation, not later than 3 years after the date of enactment of the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006, of post-accident communication between underground and surface personnel via a wireless two-way medium, and

“(ii) an electronic tracking system permitting surface personnel to determine the location of any persons trapped underground.

If such two-way communication and electronic tracking system cannot reasonably be implemented, the plan shall set forth the reasons such a system or systems cannot be adopted and shall state the operator’s alternative means of compliance. Such alternative shall approximate, as closely as possible, the degree of functional utility and safety protection provided by the wireless two-way medium and tracking system referred to in this subpart. The Secretary may make additional plan requirements with respect to any of the content matters.

“(4)(A) Any dispute between the Secretary and an operator with respect to the content of the operator’s plan or any refusal by the Secretary to approve such a plan shall be resolved on an expedited basis. In the event of such a dispute or refusal, the Secretary shall issue a technical citation which shall be immediately referred to a Department of Labor Administrative Law Judge. The Secretary and the operator shall submit all relevant material regarding the dispute to the Administrative Law Judge within 15 days of the date of the referral. The Administrative Law Judge shall render his or her decision with respect to the plan content dispute within 15 days of the receipt of the submission.

“(B) A party adversely affected be a decision under clause (ii) may pursue all further available appeal rights with respect to the citation involved, except that inclusion of the disputed provision in the plan will not be limited by such appeal unless such relief is requested by the operator and permitted by the Administrative Law Judge.

“(C) Nothing in this paragraph shall be construed to modify the authority of the Secretary to issue citations or orders as provided for in this Act.

“(5) Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, nothing in this section, and no response and preparedness plan developed under this section, shall be approved if it reduces the protection afforded miners by an existing mandatory health or safety standard.”.

SEC. 3. Incident command and control.

Title I of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (30 U.S.C. 811 et seq.) is amended by adding at the end the following:

Limitation on certain liability for rescue operations

“Sec. 116. (a) No person shall bring an action against any covered individual or his or her regular employer for an injury (or death) sustained as a result of carrying out activities relating to mine accident rescue or recovery operations. This subsection shall not apply where the action that is alleged to result in the injury (or death) was the result of gross negligence, reckless conduct, or illegal conduct or, where the regular employer (as such term is used in this Act) is the operator of the mine at which the rescue activity takes place.

“(b) For purposes of subsection (a), the term ‘covered individual’ means an individual (1) who is a member of a mine rescue team or who is otherwise a volunteer with respect to a mine accident; and (2) who is carrying out activities relating to mine accident rescue or recovery operations.

“(c) For purposes of subsection (a), the term ‘regular employer’ means the entity that is the covered employee’s legal or statutory employer pursuant to applicable State law.”.

SEC. 4. Mine rescue teams.

Section 115(e) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Safety Act of 1977 (30 U.S.C. 825 (e)) is amended—

(1) by inserting “(1)” after the subsection designation; and

(2) by adding at the end the following:

“(2) The Secretary shall issue regulations with regard to mine rescue teams which shall be finalized and in effect not later than 18 months after the date of enactment of the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006. Such regulations shall provide for the following:

“(A) That such regulations shall not be construed to waive operator training requirements applicable to existing mine rescue teams.

“(B) That the Mine Safety and Health Administration shall establish, and update every 5 years thereafter, criteria to certify the qualifications of mine rescue teams.

“(C)(i) That the operator of each underground coal mine have an employee knowledgeable in mine emergency response who is employed at the mine on each shift at each underground mine and make available two certified mine rescue teams whose members—

“(I) are familiar with the operations of such coal mine;

“(II) participate at least annually in two local mine rescue contests;

“(III) participate at least annually in mine rescue training at the underground coal mine covered by the mine rescue team;

“(IV) are available at the mine within one hour ground travel time from the mine rescue station;

“(V) are knowledgeable about the operations and ventilation of the covered mines; and

“(VI) are compromised of individuals with a minimum of 3 years underground coal mine experience that shall have occurred within the 10-year period preceding their employment on the contract mine rescue team.

“(ii) For the purpose of complying with clause (i), an operator with more than 36 employees shall employee at least one team that is either an individual mine site rescue team or a multi-employer composite team as described in subclause (II) of this clause. The second team required by this subparagraph may be any of the following:

“(I) An individual mine site mine rescue team.

“(II) A multi-employer composite team that is made up of team members who are knowledgeable about the operations and ventilation of the covered mines and who train on a semi-annual basis at the covered underground coal mine, and which—

“(aa) provides coverage for multiple operators that have team members which include at least two active employees from each of the covered mines;

“(bb) provides coverage for multiple mines owned by the same operator which members include at least two active employees from each mine; or

“(cc) is a State-sponsored mine rescue team comprised of at least two active employees from each of the covered mines.

“(III) A commercial mine rescue team provided by contract through a third-party vendor or a mine rescue team provided by another coal company if such team—

“(aa) trains on a quarterly basis at covered underground coal mines;

“(bb) is knowledgeable about the operations and ventilation of the covered mines; and

“(cc) is compromised of individuals with a minimum of 3 years underground coal mine experience that shall have occurred within the 10-year period preceding their employment on the contract mine rescue team.

“(IV) A State-sponsored team made up of State employees.”.

SEC. 5. Prompt incident notification.

Section 103(j) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (30 U.S.C. 813(j)) is amended by inserting after the first sentence the following: “For purposes of the preceding sentence, the notification required shall be provided by the operator within 15 minutes of the time at which the operator realizes that the death of an individual at the mine, or an injury or entrapment of an individual at the mine which has a reasonable potential to cause death, has occurred.”.

SEC. 6. National institute for occupational safety and health.

(a) Establishment.—Section 22 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (29 U.S.C. 671) is amended by adding at the end the following:

“(h)(1) There shall be permanently established within the Institute an Office of Mine Safety and Health for the purpose of enhancing the development of new mine safety technology and technological applications and to expedite the commercial availability and implementation of such technology in mining environments. The office shall be administered by an Associate Director to be appointed by the Director.

“(2) In addition to all purposes and authorities provided for under this section, the office of mine safety and health shall be responsible for research, development, and testing of new technologies and equipment designed to enhance mine safety and health. to carry out such functions the director of the institute, acting through the office, shall have the authority to—

“(A) award competitive grants to institutions and private entities to encourage the development and manufacture of mine safety equipment;

“(B) award contracts to educational institutions or private laboratories for the performance of product testing or related work with respect to new mine technology and equipment; and

“(C) establish an interagency working group as provided for in paragraph (4).

“(3) To be eligible to receive a grant under the authority provided for under paragraph (2), an entity or institution shall—

“(A) submit to the Director of the Institute an application at such time, in such manner, and containing such information as the Director may require; and

“(B) include in the application under subparagraph (A), a description of the mine safety equipment to be developed and manufactured under the grant and a description of the reasons that such equipment would otherwise not be developed or manufactured. including reasons relating to the limited potential commercial market for such equipment.

“(4)(A) The Director of the Institute, in carrying out paragraph (2)(D) shall establish an interagency working group to share technology and technological research and developments that could be utilized to enhance mine safety and accident response.

“(B) The working group under subparagraph (A) shall be chaired by the Associate Director of the Office who shall appoint the members of the working group, which may include representatives of other Federal agencies or departments as determined appropriate by the Associate Director.

“(C) The working group under subparagraph (A) shall conduct an evaluation of research conducted by, and the technological developments of, agencies and departments who are represented on the working group that may have applicability to mine safety and accident response and make recommendations to the Director for the further development and eventual implementation of such technology.

“(5) Not later than 1 year after the establishment of the Office under this subsection, and annually thereafter, the Director of the Institute shall submit to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions of the Senate and the Committee on Education and the Workforce of the House of Representatives a report that, with respect to the year involved, described the new mine safety technologies and equipment that have been studied, tested, and certified for use, and with respect to those instances of technologies and equipment that have been considered but not yet certified for use, there reasons therefore.

“(6) There is authorized to be appropriated, such sums as may be necessary to enable the Institute and the office of Mine Safety and Health to carry out this subsection.”.

SEC. 7. Requirement concerning family liaisons.

The Secretary of Labor shall establish a policy that—

(1) requires the temporary assignment of an individual Department of Labor official to be a liaison between the Department and the families of victims of mine tragedies involving multiple deaths;

(2) requires the Mine Safety and Health Administration to be as responsive as possible to requests from the families of mine accident victims for information relating to mine accidents; and

(3) requires that in such accidents, such Administration shall serve as the primary communicator with the operator, miners’ families, the press, and the public.

SEC. 8. Penalties.

(a) In general.—Section 110 of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (30 U.S.C. 820) is amended—

(1) in subsection (a)—

(A) by inserting “(1)” after the subsection designation; and

(B) by adding at the end the following: “(2) The operator of a coal mine who fails to provide timely notification to the Secretary as required under section 103(j) (relating to the 15 minute requirement) shall be assessed a civil penalty by the Secretary of not less than $5,000 and not more than $60,000.”;

(2) by adding at the end of subsection (b) the following: “Violations under this section that are deemed to be flagrant may be assessed a civil penalty of not more than $220,000. For purposes of the preceding sentence, the term ‘flagrant’ with respect to a violation means a reckless of repeated failure to make reasonable efforts to eliminate a known violation of a mandatory health or safety standard that substantially and proximately caused, or reasonably could have been expected to cause, death or serious bodily injuries.”; and

(3) by redesignating subsections (e) through (l) as subsections (f) through (m), respectively and inserting after subsection (d) the following:

“(e)(1) Any operator who willfully violates a mandatory health or safety standard, or knowingly violates or fails or refuses to comply with any order issued under section 104 and section 107, or any order incorporated in a final decision issued under this title, except an order incorporated in a decision under paragraph (1) or section 105(c), shall, upon conviction, be punished by a fine of not more than $250,000, or by imprisonment for not more than one year, or by both, except that if the conviction is for a violation committed after the first conviction of such operator under this Act, punishment shall be by a fine of not more than $500,000, or by imprisonment for not more than five years, or both.

“(2) The minimum penalty for any citation issued under section 104(d)(1) shall be $2,000. The minimum penalty for a failure or refusal to comply with any order issued under section 104(d)(2) shall be $4,000.

“(3) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to prevent an operator from obtaining a review, in accordance with section 106, of an order imposing a penalty described in this subsection. If a court, in making such review, sustains the order, the court shall apply the minimum penalties required under this subsection.”.

(b) Regulations.—Not later than December 31, 2006, the Secretary of Labor shall promulgate final regulations with respect to the penalties provided for under the amendments made by this section.

SEC. 9. Fine collections.

Section 108(a)(1)(A) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Safety Act of 1977 (30 U.S.C. 818(a)(1)(A)) is amended by inserting before the comma, the following: “, or fails or refuses to comply with any order or decision, including a civil penalty assessment order, that is issued under this Act”.

SEC. 10. Sealing of abandoned areas.

Not later than 18 months after the issuance by the Mine Safety and Health Administration of a final report on the Sago Mine accident or the date of enactment of the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006, whichever occurs earlier, the Secretary of Labor shall finalize mandatory heath and safety standards relating to the sealing of abandoned areas in underground coal mines. Such health and safety standards shall provide for an increase in the 20 psi standard currently set forth in section 7335(a)(2) of title 30, Code of Federal Regulations.

SEC. 11. Technical study panel and scholarship program.

Title V of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (30 U.S.C. 951 et seq.) is amended by adding at the end the following:

“SEC. 514. Technical Study Panel.

“(a) Establishment.—There is established a Technical Study Panel (referred to in this section as the ‘Panel’) which shall provide independent scientific and engineering review and recommendations with respect to the utilization of belt air and the composition and fire retardant properties of belt materials in underground coal mining.

“(b) Membership.—The Panel shall be composed of—

“(1) two individuals to be appointed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Associate Director of the Office of Mine Safety;

“(2) two individuals to be appointed by the Secretary of Labor, in consultation with the Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health; and

“(3) two individuals, one to be appointed jointly by the majority leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives and one to be appointed jointly by the minority leader of the Senate and House of Representatives, each to be appointed prior to the sine die adjournment of the second session of the 109th Congress.

“(c) Qualifications.—Four of the six individuals appointed to the Panel under subsection (b) shall possess a masters or doctoral level degree in mining engineering or another scientific field demonstrably related to the subject of the report. No individual appointed to the Panel shall be an employee of any coal or other mine, or of any labor organization, or of any State or Federal agency primarily responsible for regulating the mining industry.

“(d) Report.—

“(1) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 1 year after the date on which all members of the Panel are appointed under subsection (b), the Panel shall prepare and submit to the Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions of the Senate, and the Committee on Education and the Workforce of the House of Representatives a report concerning the utilization of belt air and the composition and fire retardant properties of belt materials in underground coal mining.

“(2) RESPONSE BY SECRETARY.—Not later than 180 days after the receipt of the report under paragraph (1), the Secretary of Labor shall provide a response to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions of the Senate, and the Committee on Education and the Workforce of the House of Representatives containing a description of the actions, if any, that the Secretary intends to take based upon the report, including proposing regulatory changes, and the reasons for such actions.

“(e) Compensation.—Members appointed to the panel, while carrying out the duties of the Panel shall be entitled to receive compensation, per diem in lieu of subsistence, and travel expenses in the same manner and under the same conditions as that prescribed under section 208(c) of the Public Health Service Act.

“SEC. 515. Scholarships.

“(a) Establishment.—The Secretary of Education (referred to in this section as the ‘Secretary’), in consultation with the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Health and Human Services, shall establish a program to provide scholarships to eligible individuals to increase the skilled workforce for both private sector coal mine operators and mine safety inspectors and other regulatory personnel for the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

“(b) Fundamental skills scholarships.—

“(1) IN GENERAL.—Under the program under subsection (a), the Secretary may award scholarship to fully or partially pay the tuition costs of eligible individuals enrolled in 2-year associate’s degree programs at community colleges or other colleges and that focus on providing the fundamental skills and training that is of immediate use to a beginning coal miner.

“(2) SKILLS.—The skills described in paragraph (1) shall include basic math, basic health and safety, business principles, management and supervisory skills, skills related to electric circuitry, skills related to heavy equipment operations, and skills related to communications.

“(3) ELIGIBILITY.—To be eligible to receive a scholarship under this subsection an individual shall—

“(A) have a high school diploma or a GED;

“(B) have at least two years experience in full-time employment in mining or mine-related activities;

“(C) submit to the Secretary an application at such time, in such manner, and containing such information as the Secretary determines; and

“(D) demonstrate an interest in working in the field of mining and performing an internship with the Mine Safety and Health Administration or the Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Office of Mine Safety.

“(c) Mine safety inspector scholarships.—

“(1) IN GENERAL.—Under the program under subsection (a), the Secretary may award scholarship to fully or partially pay the tuition costs of eligible individuals enrolled in undergraduate bachelor’s degree programs at accredited colleges or universities that provide the skills needed to become mine safety inspectors.

“(2) SKILLS.—The skills described in paragraph (1) include skills developed through programs leading to a degree in mining engineering, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, industrial engineering, environmental engineering, industrial hygiene, occupational health and safety, geology, chemistry, or other fields of study related to mine safety and health work.

“(3) ELIGIBILITY.—To be eligible to receive a scholarship under this subsection an individual shall—

“(A) have a high school diploma or a GED;

“(B) have at least 5 years experience in full-time employment in mining or mining-related activities;

“(C) submit to the Secretary an application at such time, in such manner, and containing such information as the Secretary determines; and

“(D) agree to be employed for a period of at least 5 years at the Mine Safety and Health Administration or, to repay, on a pro-rated basis, the funds received under this program, plus interest, at a rate established by the Secretary upon the issuance of the scholarship.

“(d) Advanced researcher scholarships.—

“(1) IN GENERAL.—Under the program under subsection (a), the Secretary may award scholarships to fully or partially pay the tuition costs of eligible individuals enrolled in undergraduate bachelor’s degree, masters degree, and Ph.D. degree programs at accredited colleges or universities that provide the skills needed to augment and advance research in mine safety and to broaden, improve, and expand the universe of candidates for mine safety inspector and other regulatory positions in the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

“(2) SKILLS.—The skills described in paragraph (1) include skills developed through programs leading to a degree is mining engineering, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering industrial engineering, environmental engineering, industrial hygiene, occupational health and safety, geology, chemistry, or other fields of study related to mine safety and health work.

“(3) ELIGIBILITY.—To be eligible to receive a scholarship under this subsection an individual shall—

“(A) have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent from an accredited 4-year institution;

“(B) have at least 5 years experience in full-time employment in underground mining or mining-related activities; and

“(C) submit to the Secretary an application at such time, in such manner, and containing such information as the secretary determines.

“(e) Authorization of appropriations.—There are authorized to be appropriated such sums as may be necessary to carry out this section.”.

SEC. 12. Research concerning refuge alternatives.

(a) In general.—The Director of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health shall provide for the conduct of research, including field tests, concerning the utility, practicality, survivability, and cost of various refuge alternatives in an underground coal mine environment, including commercially available portable refuge chambers.

(b) Report.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 18 months after the date of enactment of this Act, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health shall prepare and submit to the Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions of the Senate, and the Committee on Education and the Workforce of the House of Representatives a report concerning the results of the research conducted under subsection (a), including any field tests.

(2) RESPONSE BY SECRETARY.—Not later than 180 days after the receipt of the report under paragraph (1), the Secretary of Labor shall provide a response to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions of the Senate, and the Committee on Education and the Workforce of the House of Representatives containing a description of the actions, if any, that the Secretary intends to take based upon the report, including proposing regulatory changes, and the reasons for such actions.

SEC. 13. Sago mine safety grants.

(a) In general.—The Secretary of Labor shall establish a program to award competitive grants for education and training to carry out the purposes of this section.

(b) Purposes.—It is the purpose of this section, to provide for the funding of education and training programs to better identify, avoid, and prevent unsafe working conditions in and around mines.

(c) Eligibility.—To be eligible to receive a grant under this section, an entity shall—

(1) be a public or private nonprofit entity; and

(2) submit to the Secretary of Labor an application at such time, in such manner, and containing such information as the Secretary may require.

(d) Use of funds.—Amounts received under a grant under this section shall be used to establish and implement education and training programs, or to develop training materials or employers and miners, concerning safety and health topics in mines, as determined appropriate by the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

(e) Awarding of grants.—

(1) ANNUAL BASIS.—Grants under this section shall be awarded on an annual basis.

(2) SPECIAL EMPHASIS.—In awarding grants under this section, the Secretary of Labor shall give special emphasis to programs and materials that target workers in smaller mines, including training miners and employers about new Mine Safety and Health Administration standards, high risk activities, or hazards identified by such Administration.

(3) PRIORITY.—In awarding grants under this section, the Secretary of Labor shall give priority to the funding of pilot and demonstration projects that the Secretary determines will provide opportunities for broad applicability for mine safety.

(f) Evaluation.—The Secretary of Labor shall use not less than 1 percent of the funds made available to carry out this section in a fiscal year to conduct evaluations of the projects funded under grants under this section.

(g) Authorization of Appropriations.—There is authorized to be appropriated such sums as may be necessary to carry out this section