Governor Ernie Fletcher’s Communication Office
Governor Fletcher Commends House for Passing Mine Safety Bill

Press Release Date:  Thursday, March 23, 2006  
Contact Information:  Brett Hall
Jodi Whitaker
Troy Body

Mark York

Aggressive enforcement, penalties and equipment part of reforms

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Governor Ernie Fletcher praised the Kentucky House today for unanimously passing the administration’s bipartisan mine safety bill, Senate Bill 200, with amendments. The bill, which passed by a vote of 99-0, contains requirements for emergency action plans, improved ventilation plans and gas monitoring procedures.

“I want to congratulate members of the House and Senate who have worked so diligently on mine safety legislation during this session,” Governor Fletcher said.  “The continued bipartisan support for improving mine safety in Kentucky reflects that this is a critical issue for the Commonwealth.”

Rep. Robin Webb (D-Grayson), a former miner, told her colleagues the bill was the product of “many hours of discussion, deliberation, study and review” and provides the greatest protection for miners.

“There has been no compromise on mine safety,” Webb said. “It is consensus legislation, … practicable and progressive.”

SB 200, sponsored by Sens. Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) and Ray Jones (D-Pikeville), now returns to the Senate for concurrence with House amendments.

LaJuana S. Wilcher, secretary of the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet, said a House committee amendment adding a third regular inspection for underground mines causes some concern.

Each “regular” inspection requires two inspectors, full time, for five days, and this may mean a reduction in targeted, special inspections that have been so effective, Wilcher said.

“The biggest problem is finding certified mine foremen who are willing to take a pay cut to work for state government,” Wilcher said. “Obviously we will do everything in our power to implement the laws passed by the General Assembly.”

The bill also contains protections for miners who report unsafe working conditions or who cooperate with investigating agencies.

For the first time, the state Mine Safety Review Commission could assess penalties against a mine owner without having to prove that a mine safety violation was committed or ordered intentionally. Penalties for violations under the new standard would potentially amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

SB 200 also contains provisions to:

  • Give the commissioner of the Department for Natural Resources authority to assess penalties – up to $5,000 – for a violation of a mine ventilation plan or roof control plan. Under current law, the department is limited to issuing closure or noncompliance orders.
  • Require two-way communication between the working section of a mine and the surface.
  • Require escape maps posted or readily accessible to all miners and at the surface.
  • Require escape drills for all miners every 90 days.
  • Require caches of self-rescuer devices in escape ways, spaced at intervals consistent with federal requirements.