Recent Press Releases

Washington, D.C —  Senator John Thune today sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Labor's Inspector General to request an investigation of the Mine Safety and Health Administration's (MSHA) inconsistent and aggressive inspections of South Dakota's surface mines.

"Businesses and their employees have the right to operate under fair and consistent federal regulation," said Thune. "Unfortunately, mine operators throughout South Dakota continually report that they are being forced to operate under rules that are applied inconsistently and often times aggressively, ultimately resulting in violations that have little effect on safety. Our mine operators are not asking for any more or less regulation, but are asking that existing regulations be consistently and fairly enforced.

"I call on the Department of Labor's Inspector General to address these continued concerns by conducting an official investigation of MSHA's inspection practices in South Dakota."

In October of 2010, Thune organized a meeting with MSHA regional director Richard Laufenberg in Pierre to discuss the complaints of surface mine operators in South Dakota, North Dakota, and Nebraska. Despite this meeting, operators continue to experience inconsistent inspections and citations.

On December 17, 2010, Thune sent a letter to MSHA Administrator Main to address specific cases of inconsistent MSHA inspections and citations-MSHA has yet to respond to the inquiry despite repeated follow-up inquiries.

The full text of Thune's letter is included below.

April 7, 2011

Honorable Daniel Petrole
Inspector General (Acting)
U.S. Department of Labor
Francis Perkins Building, Room S-5502
200 Constitution Avenue
Washington D.C., 20210

Dear Inspector General Petrole:

I write to ask for an investigation into the enforcement of CFR 30 by the Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) office that is responsible for my home state of South Dakota.

In a letter dated December 17, 2010, I asked Honorable Joseph Main, the Assistant Secretary for Labor, for MSHA's consideration of my concerns, which were brought to my attention by surface miner operators in South Dakota last year. As I have yet to receive a response from Assistant Secretary Main despite repeated attempts, I ask that you conduct a thorough investigation of MSHA in South Dakota. I ask you to investigate whether MSHA regulations are effectively and consistently applied throughout the mining industry, and particularly in South Dakota.

MSHA plays a very important role in ensuring safe mining operations for both mine operators and mine employees. However, mine operators in my home state have expressed concern that CRF 30 is not consistently enforced by the MSHA regulators. As you know, inconsistent regulation enforcement poses a significant challenge to these mining operators, who are attempted to run a safe and professional operation. Conflicting enforcement policies place an undue burden in terms of both valuable time and money, and place the safety of the mine and its workers in jeopardy.

I appreciate your timely attention to this matter and your work to ensure the integrity of MSHA regulation enforcement. I have enclosed information provided by the Associated General Contractors of South Dakota, Inc. specifying concerns of inconsistent regulation for your review, and I request that you investigate these concerns to rectify this issue as soon as possible.


U.S. Senate