Holden to assist angry miners
October 6, 2007
A local legislator will try to get to the bottom of deep miners' anger over a federal regulatory agency.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. T. Timothy Holden, D-17, said the Saint Clair lawmaker plans to meet with the Mine Safety and Health Administration on behalf of local miners who spoke with his staff Friday about ongoing concerns.
"I met with them and Tim is going to set up a meeting with MSHA next week," said Trish Reilly, Holden's chief of staff.
Holden was in Lebanon County and could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Labor, will also conduct an internal investigation after a Thursday meeting of local independent deep miners in Joliett.
There, more than 100 miners and supporters expressed rage over treatment by the agency's Wilkes-Barre district office for its enforcement policies, which they say are closing local deep mines and threatening the entire local deep-mine industry.
"MSHA is looking into the issues raised at the meeting," said Matthew Faraci of the agency's office of public affairs in an e-mail late Friday.
Members of the Independent Miners Association gathered at Joliett Fire Company Thursday said aggressive enforcement of federal mining regulation bordering on harassment had contributed to closing an estimated 17 deep mines since 2000.
Bob Klinger, co-owner of Pine Creek Coal, a coal-preparation plant in Spring Glen, warned the shutdowns would inevitably cripple his own and six other medium-sized coal processors in the region.
Klinger estimates his company, family-owned since 1939, relies on independent deep mining for most of the 60,000 tons of anthracite coal his company processes for home heating and other markets.
In his own mine in Hegins, contractor and owner Dennis Snyder said he had been sited for a "no smoking" sign that had blown off the wall while no one was at the mine working and he had been away on vacation; a tree root near the door to an air compressor building, some ankle-high weeds near a fan building used to ventilate the mine and an improper mine map when his mine was no longer in operation.
Darryl Koperna, whose S&M Coal Company in Lykens has been closed by federal officials for four of the last seven years, said authorities refused to allow him to use a ventilation tunnel considered acceptable for a previous operator, made him seal another airway in a new mine and required him to dig a 1,500-foot tunnel to connect with the airway of his original mine.
Miners say the 1969 Federal Mine Safety and Health Act regulated anthracite and bituminous coal with the same set of rules, ignoring differences in the industries and the minerals themselves.
They say they want a change in the law that reflects the differences between anthracite and bituminous mining techniques.