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Apr 15, 2010 12:12 PM by Letitia Walker

Obama Orders Review of Mine Safety

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama ordered an exhaustive

federal review of coal mine safety Thursday and asked Congress to

strengthen existing laws "riddled with loopholes."

"I refuse to accept any number of miner deaths as simply a cost

of doing business," Obama told reporters in the Rose Garden,

vowing to step up scrutiny of coal mine safety standards in the

aftermath of the April 5 explosion at a Massey Energy Co. mine in

West Virginia where 29 miners were killed.

Obama said the government would act to quickly get inspectors

into mines across the nation that have "troubling safety

records."

"Owners responsible for conditions in the Upper Big Branch mine

should be held accountable for decisions they made and preventative

measures they failed to take," he said.

The president said that when miners go to work, "they ought to

know that behind them is a company that's doing what it should to

protect them" and that they have "a government looking out for

their safety."

"If a tragedy can be prevented, it must be prevented," Obama

said. He told federal mine safety officials to work closely with

state counterparts to improve mine safety.

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin on Wednesday ordered state safety

officials to inspect all underground mines in the state

immediately, beginning with ones that had been cited for

combustion-related violations.

Obama said he directed Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to work

closely with Congress to "strengthen existing laws" and to close

loopholes. He cited "endless litigation" on the part of mining

companies "to evade their responsibility."

"We can't just hold mining companies accountable. We have to

hold Washington accountable," the president said.

Inadequate ventilation and a build up of methane gas is believed

to have been a factor in the explosion at Massey's Upper Big Branch

mine in Montcoal, W.Va. That mine had a history of safety

violations.

Obama spoke after receiving a preliminary report about the Upper

Big Branch mine from Solis and Mine Safety and Health Administrator

Joe Main. He said their report showed there are far too many mines

where safety is inadequate

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