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Mark W.
Democrat VA

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  • Tribute to Federal Employees

    by Senator Mark R. Warner

    Posted on 2015-12-16

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    WARNER. Mr. President, since 2010, I have come to the Senate floor on an occasional basis to honor exemplary Federal employees, a tradition started by my friend, the former Senator from Delaware Ted Kaufman. Today I am going to continue that tradition as we get to the close of this year.

    I am pleased to honor a great Federal employee, Kevin Stricklin, who also happens to be a Virginian. As the administrator for coal at the Mine Safety and Health Administration, Mr. Stricklin leads a team that enforces safety rules, improves industry compliance, and executes rescue and recovery operations.

    On his watch, the number of coal miners who died in accidents last year, 16, while still too high, was the lowest ever recorded in the history of the United States. In addition, the number of mines with chronic violations dropped from 51 in 2010 to 12 in 2014, and the number of citations against mines fell from more than 96,000 in 2010 to less than 63,000 in 2014, even as inspections increased.

    After the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster in 2010, Mr. Stricklin was at the frontlines of implementing reforms to improve mine safety, including quarterly inspections, surprise inspections for repeat violators, and a program that identifies habitual safety lapses.

    When accidents have occurred, Mr. Stricklin's creativity and calm under pressure have saved countless lives. In a 2002 accident, a Pennsylvania coal mine flooded, trapping nine miners. Mr. Stricklin and his team devised a plan to drill a 6\1/2\-inch hole and inject compressed air into it. Their plan provided oxygen to the miners and prevented the water level from rising any further. The miners survived and were hoisted to the surface using a capsule the team helped design.

    Following a 2006 accident in West Virginia, rescuers' efforts were impeded by limitations in communicating over long distances. The protocol at that time was 1,000 feet. The team's solution was to develop a wireless fiber-optic system that extended communication up to 5 miles. Mr. Stricklin and his team improved the standard by more than 26 times.

    Like so many other Federal employees, they went above and beyond because it was in the country's best interest, not because they expected praise or recognition. Mr. Stricklin, whose two grandfathers and father were all coal miners, describes his objective as being ``for each miner to go home as safe and as healthy at the end of the day as they started at the beginning of the day.'' I am proud to rise today to recognize Mr. Stricklin's dedication to public safety and commitment to public service. I hope my colleagues will join me in thanking him, his team, and, frankly, during the holiday season, all Federal Government employees at all levels of service to our country for their contributions and hard work.

    As we go through these final days of debate--and hopefully, as I said at the outset, we will get a chance to spend time with our families over the holidays--I do think it is important that we also take a moment to reflect on the close to 2 million civilian Federal employees who serve our Nation in so many ways each and every day without fanfare.

    I yield the floor.

    I suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

    The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.

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