Salazar requests mine safety hearings

Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., was one of 11 lawmakers last week to call for Senate hearings on coal mine safety.

Salazar joined a bipartisan group of senators in calling for the hearings before the Senate Committee on Health, Edu--cation, Labor and Pensions.

The senators requested the hearings after the mine explosion in West Virginia, which killed 12 miners and injured another earlier this month.

The 11 senators signed a letter to Sen. Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, calling for the hearings.

Shortly after the tragedy in West Virginia, Enzi scheduled hearings for March to study what went wrong in the West Virginia accident.

But the senators last week called for hearings to review overall coal mine safety.

In the letter, senators said the tragedy in West Virginia was particularly tough for people in mining states and in mining communities such as Northwest Colorado, where four active coal mines employ more than 1,000 people.

The senators are calling for hearings to look into a variety of aspects of mine safety.

"We seek a thorough congressional review of miner training procedures, industry safety practices, new proposals and developing technologies to improve miner safety, as well as careful consideration of current and future federal regulatory oversight," the senators said in the letter.

The senators said they are concerned about staffing levels at the Mine Safety and Health Administration, which inspects the nation's mines.

Coal produces more than half of the nation's electricity, and the senators said they expect coal production to grow.

"The current high cost and volatility of natural gas, as well as technological advances in the fields of coal gasification and liquefaction, will only increase the demand for and importance of coal in the nation's energy and economic mix," the senators said.

In a statement, Salazar also emphasized the extensive use of coal in the United States.

"More than half of America's electricity comes from coal. But every effort should be made to ensure that it does not come at the cost of a single life," Salazar said.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or bjohansson@craigdailypress.com.

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