Governor Ernie Fletcher’s Communication Office
Governor Fletcher Signs Mine Safety Bills

Press Release Date:  Thursday, April 27, 2006  
Contact Information:  Brett Hall
Jodi Whitaker
Troy Body

Comprehensive reforms include enforcement, penalties and drug testing

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Governor Ernie Fletcher today signed the administration’s bipartisan mine safety bills and praised legislators for making Kentucky the country’s leader in protecting miners.

Governor Fletcher signed Senate Bill 200 and House Bill 572 and commended Senate and House members for their bipartisan and unanimous support for both bills.

“We’re making Kentucky miners safer because members of both parties and both chambers have worked diligently to pass comprehensive mine safety legislation, something no other state has accomplished this year,” Governor Fletcher said. “From aggressive enforcement, whistleblower protection for miners, equipment requirements and drug testing for miners, these bills will provide the greatest protection for the men and women mining coal in Kentucky.”

SB 200 contains requirements for emergency action plans, improved ventilation plans, increased inspections for underground mines and two-way communication between the working section of the mine and the surface.

SB 200 was sponsored by Senator Robert Stivers (R-Manchester).

“The comprehensive bill is the result of an effective working relationship with Governor Fletcher’s administration and bipartisan support from the House and Senate,” said Senator Stivers. “We have crafted legislation that will enable coal companies to do the most to protect the working miners.”

HB 572 reflects the recommendations of a task force that held public hearings last year on the issue of drug and alcohol use among miners. The bill requires pre-certification testing of miners, provides for post-accident testing and contains an incentive for companies to implement employee assistance programs.

HB 572 was sponsored by Rep. Robin Webb (D-Grayson).

“This legislation will enable us to evaluate the extent of the problem in our mines and give us the opportunity to further address the issue, if necessary, in future legislative sessions,” Representative Webb said.

The abuse of illicit drugs and prescription painkillers in Kentucky are well documented said LaJuana S. Wilcher, secretary of the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet.

“A coal mine – particularly an underground mine – is a place where no one can afford for anyone to be impaired,” Wilcher said.

SB 200 also gives the commissioner of the Department for Natural Resources authority, for the first time, to assess penalties of up to $5,000 for a violation of a mine ventilation plan or roof control plan. The bill also requires caches of self-rescuer devices in escape ways and escape drills for all miners every 90 days.

For the first time, the state Mine Safety Review Commission can 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 can potentially amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.