POLITICS
03/28/2008 02:45 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

4,000 Mine Safety Violations Ignored On Bush Administration Watch

Federal regulators have allowed mine operators to avoid fines for thousands of health and safety citations, despite a federal law that requires monetary penalties for such violations, government officials have confirmed.

Over the last six years, the Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration did not assess civil penalties for about 4,000 violations, according to preliminary MSHA data.

Most of the violations involve situations where MSHA did not assess monetary penalties within 18 months of issuing a citation. Agency officials believe that is the legal time limit for doing so.

MSHA officials emphasized that less than 1 percent of all violations cited by agency inspectors were involved, and said steps are being taken to fix the problem.

But at least one of the citations involves a violation that MSHA inspectors concluded was partly responsible for the December 2005 death of an underground miner in Kentucky.

The revelation is another major setback for MSHA, which is still trying to catch up on missed mandatory inspections and implement far-reaching safety laws passed after a series of disasters in 2006 and 2007.

"There is no doubt that there is a problem," said Richard Stickler, acting assistant labor secretary in charge of MSHA.

Read the full report here.

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