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Congressman says new mine law falls short

July 6, 2008 at 5:02 PM

WASHINGTON, July 6 (UPI) -- New federal rules aimed at protecting U.S. coal miners from dangerous inactive sections of underground mines are inadequate, a lawmaker says.

Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the House committee that oversees mine safety, said the new regulations ignore a key congressional directive, The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal reported Sunday.

Miller said the problem with the rules is they don't cover the 14,000 existing seals that block off idle sections in mines.

"It would ... appear that miners working in mines with existing seals will continue to face the same risks they would have faced if the (2006 law) had never been enacted," Miller wrote recently to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.

The regulations apply only to seals built on or after Oct. 20 of this year. Existing seals are to be monitored from time to time to determine if explosive gases are building up behind them, under the law.

The 2006 law, dubbed the MINER Act, was passed by Congress and signed by President George Bush after two major disasters that involved failed mine seals: the Kentucky Darby Mine No. 1, where five miners died after mine seals failed in an explosion and at West Virginia's Sago mine, where 12 miners died in a blast.

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