Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis
Remarks by Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis
The House Education and Labor Committee
Massey Mine Explosion Hearing
Beckley, West Virginia
Monday, May 24, 2010
Thank you Chairman Miller for the opportunity to speak, and thank you for holding this important hearing.
I wish I were here under different circumstances.
Let me first express my deepest condolences to the families, friends and co-workers of the 29 miners who perished in the Upper Big Branch Mine and the surviving miners. Our prayers are with all of them.
But as the President said, "we owe them more than prayers. We owe them action. We owe them accountability.
They ought to know that behind them there is a company that's doing what it takes to protect them, and a government that is looking out for their safety."
I traveled to West Virginia then because I felt it was my duty to make sure you knew that the Department of Labor was doing everything in our power to get your loved ones out of that mine, and back home.
I've held those conversations close to me since then.
The mother praying for the safe return of her son. The grandfather, who himself is suffering from black lung, desperate for information about his grandson. And the wives, agonizing over what they can do to ease the suffering of their children.
Tragically, we later learned that all 29 men lost their lives, but we can all honor them by ensuring that justice is served on their behalf and that an accident of this magnitude never happens again.
Shortly after the explosion occurred, I briefed the President along with the leadership of MSHA on the explosion and our response. He was very clear in his direction to us. First, he asked us to maintain a level of transparency in our investigation.
Secondly, he told us to provide regular updates to the family members. And, finally, he instructed us to take no action to interfere with any ongoing criminal investigation.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration, led by Assistant Secretary Joe Main, is conducting a thorough and comprehensive investigation into what caused the explosion on April 5.
MSHA also is conducting a thorough physical investigation of the mine, and will hold a number of public hearings.
The MSHA process will also allow for unprecedented public participation, enabling members of the public to offer their insights into the causes of the explosion. If you have something to say, you'll have an opportunity to say it.
Our process is designed so we can learn the truth regarding what happened at Upper Big Branch and determine what is needed to enhance protections for mine safety.
I'm grateful to Chairman Miller and the Committee for holding this hearing, and I look forward to working with the members of the Committee to strengthen our mine safety and health laws.
I want to thank Governor Joe Manchin and the entire West Virginia delegation for their leadership and commitment to the mining community and the people of West Virginia.
Again, I would like to thank the families for your courage to testify in front of the committee today.
Thank you for speaking on behalf of your husbands, your fathers, you sons, your brothers, your uncles, or your friends.
We take every incident that results in injury or loss of life seriously and personally.
I look forward to hearing your testimonies.