Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet
Mine safety bill clears House committee
FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 21, 2006) – A bipartisan mine safety bill promoted by Governor Ernie Fletcher containing aggressive enforcement features and additional safety equipment and practices for coal miners unanimously passed a House committee today.
Senate Bill 200 was amended by the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee to add a third regular inspection of underground mines each year, a Mine Equipment Review Panel and prohibit the altering of a mine accident site.
Governor Fletcher commended committee members for their unanimous support of the legislation.
“The continued bipartisan support for progressive and aggressive legislation reflects mine safety is not a political issue but an issue of great importance to all of us,” Governor Fletcher said. “I would urge House members to quickly pass one of the most important bills of the session.”
Sen. Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) lead sponsor of SB 200, testified mine safety will continue to be a work in progress, especially in the area of technology.
“As technology becomes more advanced we will be able to review new innovations and determine if they should be added to our mine safety programs through the review panel,” Stivers told the committee.
SB 200 proposes numerous innovations in mine safety enforcement and emergency evacuation, communications and rescue procedures. Under the bill, the commissioner of the Department for Natural Resources would, for the first time in Kentucky’s history, have authority to assess penalties – up to $5,000 – for a violation of a mine ventilation plan or roof control plan.
“Ventilation and roof control are the two areas we’ve needed to address, since most accidents are related to these issues,” Rep. Robin Webb (D-Grayson) testified. Rep. Webb is steering SB 200 through the House.
SB 200 was also endorsed by Steve Earle of the United Mine Workers of America.
“We want to go on record in support of this bill, and we hope there are no attempts to weaken or modify the bill,” Earle said.
LaJuana S. Wilcher, secretary of the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet, said SB 200 contains protections for miners who report unsafe mine conditions or cooperate with investigating agencies.
“A miner cannot be disciplined for reporting or documenting unsafe mining practices or conditions under this legislation,” Wilcher said. “We are providing them ‘whistleblower’ protection in this bill.”
SB 200 also would require, for the first time:
- Two-way communication between the working section of a mine and the surface.
- Emergency action plans, emergency evacuation and firefighting plans for all licensed coal facilities.
- Escape maps posted or readily accessible to all miners and at the surface.
- Escape drills for all miners every 90 days.
- Caches of self-rescuer devices in escape ways, spaced at intervals consistent with federal requirements.
SB 200 now goes to the full House for consideration.