Coal Mining Industry Ducks Punishment For Safety Sins By 'Clogging the System' With Appeals, Critics Say

Normally, when federal regulators determine that a mine has shown a "pattern of violations," the government can tighten the screws, hiking fines or even shutting the mine down until the safety problems are resolved. But while the infractions are being contested, all of that has to wait.

Roberts made specific note of this point in February, speaking in front of a congressional committee. He wanted to make the point that the consequences of the industry's delay tactics were not insubstantial.

"You must recognize that many of these violations are quite serious," he said. They are "the kind of violations that have contributed to mine fires, explosions and the deaths of coal miners."

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