House Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) is pointing to the conclusions of a Governmental Accountability Office report as evidence that
CHARLOTTE S. GARVEY
House Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) is pointing to the conclusions of a Governmental Accountability Office report as evidence that more legislation is needed to address mine worker safety concerns. The report focuses on the Mine Safety and Health Administration's implementation of the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act, primarily in coal mines. GAO concludes that many mines have not implemented methods to provide air to trapped miners because equipment is not available, and mine owners have not begun to implement wireless communication systems despite a June 2009 compliance deadline. Regarding the wireless technology, GAO found that MSHA has not determined what technology is allowed for mine use, putting mine owners on hold in acting on the requirement. Under the MINER follow-on legislation being advanced by Miller, MSHA would be required to direct mines to put communication systems in place. The pending bill also would address the breathable air supply equipment issue by mandating that mine operators find alternate ways to ensure that air supplies are available. The bill, which is opposed by the mining industry, has been approved by the House and is under consideration by the Senate.
HOUSE PANEL CALLS FOR WATER INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is encouraging legislators to submit project requests for inclusion in the Water Resources Development Act of 2008. Because the 2007 WRDA focused primarily on addressed backlogged projects, ìit is appropriate that Congress develop a Water Resources Development Act of 2008 to address new project studies and authorizations that have arisen over the past two years,î say the panel's top Democrats and Republicans in a ìDear Colleagueî letter. The panel is expected to put together WRDA legislation by the fall.
COUNTY OFFICIALS OPPOSE WETLANDS JURISDICTION BILL
The National Association of Counties is joining with industry groups in calling on Congress not to approve pending legislation to rewrite the Clean Water Act to address wetlands jurisdictional issues. In testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, David Brand, a Madison County, Ohio, engineer, warned the panel that the pending bill (S. 1870) could have a significant impact by delaying benign and positive county actions, such as constructing a new driveway. ìCounties are responsible for a wide range of activities designed to protect the health and well-being of their citizens,î Brand said, suggesting that the pending Clean Water Restoration Act ìmay preempt some of these ingrained local land use decisions.î House and Senate advocates of the legislation indicate they hope to act on the proposal within the next few months.
DON'T FORGET SMALL, MEDIUM CITIES IN ROAD FUNDING, LEGISLATOR SAYS
A top Republican on the House Transportation Committee is urging his colleagues not to forget about small and medium-sized metropolitan areas as the panel focuses on reauthorization of the national highway and transit programs. At a recent hearing on transportation challenges, Rep. John Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.) said, ìI am worried that, in trying to prioritize our federal transportation policy and funding, we may lose sight of a significant number of communities and small cities that don't fall into ëmega-regions,í don't have major transit systems, but still have very real transportation needs.î He is pressing the committee to set national transportation policies that ìretain the flexibility to address the very different kinds of needs that these very different sizes and types of metropolitan areas have,î noting that large metropolitan areas often have access to funding resources that smaller areas do not.
Charlotte S. Garvey is a Washington, D.C.-based writer specializing in environmental, natural resources and other public policy issues.