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January 4, 2006

Marsha Renwanz at (202) 225-1506


Washington, DC - Congressman Major R. Owens today (January 4) demanded that President Bush come clean with the nation and the grieving families of 12 miners found dead early this morning in West Virginia’s Sago mine.     

It was outrageous for the President to assure Americans yesterday that the federal government was doing everything in its power to assist West Virginia in the face of the Sago disaster,” Owens stressed.  “For the past five years, Bush appointees at the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) have systematically reversed critical safety protections for miners and cut the budget for enforcement.  This has reduced chances of shutting down unsafe mines and significantly heightened the risks of mining disasters and fatalities,” Owens underscored.  “Keep in mind that Sago was cited for more than 205 safety violations last year and was clearly endangering miners’ lives,” Owens added.        

Since 2001, MSHA has rescinded or relaxed more than fifteen rules intended to make coal miners’ jobs safer, including those to limit the build-up of combustible coal dust and exposure to toxic chemicals.  In the same time frame, the Bush White House has also requested budget cuts and overseen the downsizing of 170 positions at MSHA.   

MSHA’s clear track record under Bush of undermining safety enforcement and going easy on industry cronies has had tragic consequences for the families of coal miners in Sago and elsewhere.” Owens noted.  “It is high time MSHA and Bush stop kowtowing to wealthy industry contributors and start protecting miners.  MSHA’s egregious and willful failure to enforce time-honored worker protections –for coal miners and others – can no longer be covered up,” Owens emphasized.   

As senior Democrat on the Workforce Protections Subcommittee, Owens is recognized as a leader in the fight to promote safety and prevent injury and illness for hard working Americans and their families.   



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