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Senate Proceeding on Apr 13th, 2010 :: 1:51:40 to 2:13:25
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John Rockefeller

1:51:40 to 2:13:25( Edit History Discussion )
Speech By: John Rockefeller

John Rockefeller

1:51:40 to 1:52:00( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: quorum call: a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from west virginia is recognized. mr. rockefeller: i consent that the order of the quorum call be rescinded. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. rockefeller: mr. president, as the presiding officer would well understand from his own

John Rockefeller

1:52:01 to 1:52:21( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: experience, west virginia is mourning the loss of 29 brave miners who died last week, most of whom never knew what hit them. when a devastating explosion tore through the upper big

John Rockefeller

1:52:22 to 1:52:44( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: branch mine in west virginia, and it's brought the whole state to a dead halt. even though it may never be possible to fully grasp the magnitude of this tragedy -- and it is that, it's huge -- or to ease the pain of this devastating loss, we in west virginia believe strongly in the

John Rockefeller

1:52:45 to 1:53:07( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: power of prayer and in the grace of god, and that's been really important this week and in the weeks to come. we hold onto it, that feeling. we offer it to one another and to the families, friends, and

John Rockefeller

1:53:08 to 1:53:28( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: fellow miners who are grieving. we revere our miners, mr. president, the men and women who put their lives on the line every single day to provide for their families and bring light and heat to millions. they live in obscurity, they work underground.

John Rockefeller

1:53:29 to 1:53:49( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: nobody knows much about it around the rest of the country, but it's heroic living. and they make this country work.

John Rockefeller

1:53:50 to 1:54:12( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: we offer a heartfelt thanks to the rescue workers who risked their own lives. our rescue teams, like the entire west virginia community, never gave up hope and continued to forge ahead in their mission. they understand that when they

John Rockefeller

1:54:13 to 1:54:34( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: volunteered for this dangerous work, they knew that at some point they would be called on to put their own lives on the line. that's what a rescue worker is all about, phing the edges, how much methane, how far can you get in, how much dust, what can you see, does he have enough

John Rockefeller

1:54:35 to 1:54:56( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: oxygen, or she? and they did so selflessly and fearlessly, and they have, as you can imagine, my deepest respect. mr. president, even in one of our darke hours, america has seen the very best of west

John Rockefeller

1:54:57 to 1:55:19( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: virginia. binding together, drawing solace from each other with tears and with mutual love, this is who we are. this is appalachia. it is the sense of oneness,

John Rockefeller

1:55:20 to 1:55:41( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: always against so many odds. the odds are always stacked against us. maybe that's why i'm so proud to represent them. always fighting uphill. others not knowing much about you, not necessarily paying a lot of attention to you, but

John Rockefeller

1:55:42 to 1:56:03( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: strong, good people. so it's this sense of oneness, really, that sets us apart in my mind and why i'm so proud to be a west virginian. we are all too familiar with this agony. i know the presiding officer is.

John Rockefeller

1:56:04 to 1:56:26( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: we have been here before with sago, with aricoma, and when you're worst fears are realized as they were in this terrible tragedy, we know we must find a way through the searing pain and the loss because that's the way it is in our appalachia.

John Rockefeller

1:56:27 to 1:56:48( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: central appalachia. everybody understands that mining has always been risky, but you know it can be made safer by people who want to make it safer. that will often start with the person who is in charge of the company.

John Rockefeller

1:56:49 to 1:57:09( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: safety is about a company doing the right thing, mr. president. safety is also about a state and federal government stepping in and toughening up our laws where that needs to be done. and it is about providing the resources and the people to

John Rockefeller

1:57:10 to 1:57:33( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: enforce those laws. let me give you an example. currently, the federal mine safety and health review commission has 14 administrative law judges. if this year's budget request is enacted, they will have 18.

John Rockefeller

1:57:34 to 1:57:55( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: they will go from 14 to 18. now, those 18 -- and right now those 14 administrative law judges together face a backlog of more than 16,000 cases containing 82,000 violations.

John Rockefeller

1:57:56 to 1:58:16( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: it's incomprehensible to me. it's ridiculous, but it's true and it's unacceptable. in the aftermath of sago, i was proud to co-author the miner act along with senator byrd, senator kennedy and senator mike enzi

John Rockefeller

1:58:17 to 1:58:38( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: from wyoming.?? this was, in fact, the only significant federal mine legislation at a federal level since 1977, which meant that we had gone 30 years without passing significant mine safety legislation. that doesn't tell the whole

John Rockefeller

1:58:39 to 1:59:00( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: story, but it certainly tells some part of the story. the bill was not perfect but it did tackle the core problems that we faced at sago, which was a very different kind of mine. it was a very rural min a much smaller mine than this huge mine in raleigh county, west virginia.

John Rockefeller

1:59:01 to 1:59:21( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: because of this bill, now we require that mines will have flame-resistant liveliness to guide miners out in an emergency. you have an explosion, there is dust everywhere, can't see anything, so you put in a -- sort of like a handrail and you just hold onto it and you just

John Rockefeller

1:59:22 to 1:59:44( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: follow that because you can't see where you're going, and that will lead you to the shaft where perhaps an elevator, if it's still working, could get you out. we require refuge chambers that are now located in mines to

John Rockefeller

1:59:45 to 2:00:06( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: protect miners if they can't evacuate. those are safe havens that have oxygen and food. there are stores of breathing devices along the escape routes. it's part of the law now. it's not implemeed by all but

John Rockefeller

2:00:07 to 2:00:28( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: it's part of the law. and we have new flammability quirements for new belt equipment, and i know that's mining jargon but i lay it before the senate. and yet despite these important improvements, we mourn now

John Rockefeller

2:00:29 to 2:00:52( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: another disaster of a very different kind and more lives were lost. and we ask: how can this be again? everything we know at this time tells us that this accident did

John Rockefeller

2:00:53 to 2:01:13( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: not have to happen, this explosion could have and should have been prevented. if you're asked by a coal miner, "does an explosion have to happen?" the answer is no. is it preventable? yes. that's easy to say and hard to

John Rockefeller

2:01:14 to 2:01:34( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: do. but in the real world of serious work and mine safety, it is preventable. miners don't have to lose their jobs and their lives. and so our responsibility now is to learn from this new and terrible incident.

John Rockefeller

2:01:35 to 2:01:56( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: we have to look at it carefully. we can't rush to judgment. i'm going to explain a couple of things that are being done. and we don't know exactly what went wrong at upper big branch. that was the mine. but i promise you, we will demand answers and weill get

John Rockefeller

2:01:57 to 2:02:18( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: answers. msha, ich is the mine health and safety group, will conduct a complete investigation into this tragedy and that will tell us a lot. the agency's quick response, frankly, and leadership after this explosion have been, in my

John Rockefeller

2:02:19 to 2:02:43( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: judgment, highly commendable. right now, what we do know is that we need to enforce aggressively the provisions of the miner act that we passed several years ago in 27. at all mines.

John Rockefeller

2:02:44 to 2:03:06( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: and where they are needed, and put new laws in place. understanding that mine operations are different. some operators try to do the right thing. others try less hard. it's a hard job, mr. president. i'm concerned that the enforcement process today moves much too slowly and that hurts

John Rockefeller

2:03:07 to 2:03:27( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: the good operators as well as helping the bad ones. even when the circumstances demand the most urgent response. today, mine safety operators can stop operators in a mine or a part of a mine whenever they see

John Rockefeller

2:03:28 to 2:03:50( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: imminently dangerous violations. that's in the eye of the beholder. of the inspector. which means they have to be good people and well trained. once the operator has addressed that problem, then there is no longer a violation and mining

John Rockefeller

2:03:51 to 2:04:13( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: can continue. but these inspectors also look for a very interesting phenomenon called patterns of violation, and for that you have to look back over the last several years in a particular mine or a particular part of a mine to find out, has there been a pattern of violation which in

John Rockefeller

2:04:14 to 2:04:34( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: and of itself might not rise to the level of imminent danger but could indicate that the mine needs to improve its safety and is either deliberately not doing it or, in any event, isn't doing it.

John Rockefeller

2:04:35 to 2:04:56( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: if they find a pattern, these federal inspectors, they should be able to impose higher fines, and if it's not corrected, they should be able to -- as they are now -- shut a mine down or just part of a mine where there's a particular problem.

John Rockefeller

2:04:57 to 2:05:20( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: this mine that -- where the explosion was, was just huge. it had numerous, double-digit entrances into different parts of the mine. it was huge. but anyway, closing down a part of a mine or a mine doesn't always work that way because

John Rockefeller

2:05:21 to 2:05:42( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: companies have found a loophole in this part of the law, the part dealing with so-called patterns of violation. they just keep contesting and appealing. they appeal and they appeal right on up to federal courts.

John Rockefeller

2:05:43 to 2:06:03( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: they appeal the decisions to prevent the finding of a ttern. that's why they do it. if you -- if you don't want something to happen, if you don't want to pay a fine, you've been cited for a violation, you've been cited for aine, but if you appeal that and if you appeal it long and keep appealing it and then if you get

John Rockefeller

2:06:04 to 2:06:27( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: a judgment against you, you go to the next court higher up, you don't have to either pay the fine or change the way you operate. the number of appeals have increased dramatically, from just 6% of total violations in

John Rockefeller

2:06:28 to 2:06:51( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: 2005 to 27% last year. and with such a tremendous backlog of cases and limited manpower, the average appeal took 587 days to finalize last year. which is bad for everybody. some operators have taken

John Rockefeller

2:06:52 to 2:07:13( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: advantage of this loophole, preventing government action and posing a serious risk to the miners' safety. west virginians can rest assured that i plan to press this issue agessively. we're already taking steps to get to the bottom of this. i'm really glad that presidt

John Rockefeller

2:07:14 to 2:07:34( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: obama has been involved, called a lot of folks, including miners' families. and he's requested a full report to him on what federal investigators have learned about the disaster, and it's going to happen this week. now, maybe that's too early.

John Rockefeller

2:07:35 to 2:07:56( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: they may not know everything, but he wants to be kept abreast of what's happening. and i have asked, with others, for a full briefing on the findings for west virginia's congressional delegation. i decided that wasn't selfish. i decided that was the right thing to do. i want to know what the

John Rockefeller

2:07:57 to 2:08:18( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: president knows, and that's going to happen. i have requested that msha conduct a top-to-bottom review of all mine safety violations all across the country so that we can get a sense of perspective of where we lie in this mine and others in relation

John Rockefeller

2:08:19 to 2:08:42( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: to other states. and i've also requested hearings and oversight investigations from the senate committee on health, education, labor, and pensions, and they were kind enough to allow me to sit with them during the marking up of

John Rockefeller

2:08:43 to 2:09:05( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: the miner act so that i could contribute what little i know. in closing, mr. president, i want to say that our coal miners have lost too many brothers and too many sisters. coal mining has always been dangerous and it's a common

John Rockefeller

2:09:06 to 2:09:26( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: story in -- in west virginia that -- southern west virginia particularly, which is where i first went, where there's so much coal mining, that mothers don't want their sons to go into coal mining. but there they are living up a hollow, up a creek, no other

John Rockefeller

2:09:27 to 2:09:51( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: work available and they can get paid $60,000 or $70,000 for doing this job after some training. what are ty meant to do? what if it's a mine which doesn't have any kind of representation which allows people to tell somebody in authority that something isn't

John Rockefeller

2:09:52 to 2:10:12( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: being done safely? well, we have mines where the operators use intimidation. and if somebody tries to do something like that, they're out of a job. all kinds of ways to do that. and while we all know their

John Rockefeller

2:10:13 to 2:10:36( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: journey is a dangerous one, our coal miners must know that everything is being done to keep them safe. it's why i'm standing here, simply to say that. we have a solemn, urgent and i think sacred obligation in the united states congress to find

John Rockefeller

2:10:37 to 2:10:58( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: the truth, do it fairly and carefully, and take action in their honor. these men have given us all they can and we must honor their sacrifice. i thank the presiding officer and

John Rockefeller

2:10:59 to 2:11:14( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.

John Rockefeller

2:13:01 to 2:13:22( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: quorum call: mr. rockefeller: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from west virginia is recognized. mr. rockefeller: mr. president, i ask that the order of the quorum call be rescinded. the presiding mr. rockefeller: mr. president, i have seven unanimous consent requests for committees to meet senate. they have the approval of the majority and minority leaders. i ask unanimous consent that

John Rockefeller

2:13:23 to 2:13:25( Edit History Discussion )

John Rockefeller: these requests be agreed to and that these requests be printed

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