The House of Representatives has given final approval to legislation to reduce the backlog of more than 17,000 cases involving mine operator appeals of safety and health violations.

H.R. 4899, the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2010, will add an additional $22 million to the Mine Safety and Health Administration and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission to attack the backlog of cases. The bill now goes to President Obama for his signature.

“It is clear that the seemingly indiscriminate appeals of nearly every significant safety violation by some mine operators are undermining important enforcement tools and putting miners’ lives at risk. This additional funding approved today will reverse a backlog that has been allowed to pile up since the Bush administration, and is a step in the right direction in holding some of our most dangerous mine operators accountable,” said U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee.

A February Education and Labor Committee hearing found that mine owners tripled the number of violations they appealed in order to escape tougher penalties including progressively tougher sanctions instituted after an increased number of mine tragedies in 2005 and 2007. The backlog of cases at the review commission jumped from 2,100 in 2006 to more than 17,000 today. The average case now takes more than 30 months to adjudicate.