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Rockefeller: 'No more wake up calls' on mine safety

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Sen. Jay Rockefeller said the coal mining community and West Virginia families don't need "any more wakeup calls" when it comes to mine safety.

Rockefeller convened a roundtable conversation at Concord University Wednesday where he called for stronger laws, safety training and technology development. The event comes nearly three years after the anniversary of the Upper Big Branch disaster that killed 29 coal miners in Raleigh County.

"Our eyes should be wide open to the safety risks our coal miners face every day," Rockefeller said. "We shouldn't minimize the progress that's been made, but the fact remains – and recent incidents show – that major reforms are needed to protect West Virginia's coal miners. In the coming weeks, I'll reintroduce my mine safety bill – with input from stakeholders like those gathered today – and aggressively work for its passage."

Rockefeller said with only a few months gone in 2013 the seven coal miners who have already died – including five West Virginia is far too high.

"Five coal miners with families who loved them and are mourning," Rockefeller said of the West Virginia miners. "Five too many."

Rockefeller also invited a cross section of stakeholders in mine safety including Mike Dickerson, MSHA staff assistant district 12; Dennis O'Dell, safety director, United Mine Workers of America;  Jeffrey L. Kohler, Ph.D., National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health associate director for mining; Lou Barletta, vice president of safety, Consol Energy; Jim Dean, director, Mining and Industrial Extension, WVU;  Jeremy Abraham, owner, Mine LifeLine, LLC; and  Tim Watkins, MSHA District 12 Manager.

Rockefeller said he convened people from all areas of the mining industry because a diverse conversation about mine safety is the only way to improve.

"There is no silver bullet. There never is. But what we need is an open, honest look at what works. We know stronger laws can make mines safer, we know effective safety training saves lives, and we know how important it is to have the best technologies with our miners underground," Rockefeller said. "Making our mines safer will take all of us working together – and that's what today represents."