In its proposed 2013 budget the Obama administration is looking to trim $1 million from the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) from $373 million to $372 million. However, the administration said it plans to focus limited resources on safety and health enforcement.
The budget cuts could delay mining plan approval in the future.
MSHA said it would be shifting resources within the agency, to spend $2.9 million more next year on enforcement of safety and health standards in the coal industry and $1.8 million more on inspections of non-coal mines.
The proposed FY 2013 budget request for MSHA reduces the number of full-time MSHA positions from 2,365 this year to 2,336 next year. The proposed 2013 budget is $371,896,000, down from $374 million this year.
MSHA has designated five top priorities in FY 2013 including: ensuring mining industry work places are safe and healthy; Strengthen regulatory efforts; ensure miners have a voice in the workplace; modernize training; and reduce the backlog of contested cases before the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission.
Under the proposal, MSHA would reduce spending on mostly non-enforcement branches that focus on education and training, information resources and program administration.
But the agency would also cut spending on its newly combined office that handles penalty assessments and collections, special investigations that look for potential criminal violations and reviews of how well MSHA is doing its job.
MSHA would also cut $1 million and 17 positions from the division that reviews key mine operator plans for ventilating and controlling the roof of underground mines.
Independent audits and government reviews have linked inadequate MSHA plan reviews to several recent mine disasters, and questions persist about how well MSHA handled Massey Energy ventilation plans prior to the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster.