Lawmakers expand attack on miners' safety | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Lawmakers expand attack on miners' safety

Kentucky lawmakers have stepped up their efforts to weaken laws to protect coal miners.

Three bills that would weaken provisions of the 2007 landmark mine safety law are making their way through the General Assembly. KFTC strongly opposes efforts to weaken protections for coal miners.

  • House Bill 119 would lower from 2 to 1 the number of EMTs (also known as Mine Emergency Technicians, or METs) at coal mines with fewer than 18 employees per shift. The was included in the 2007 law because after coal miner Bud Morris bled to death when the one EMT at his Harlan County mine refused to treat him. HB 119 sponsor Rep. Keith Hall of Pike County has interest in three small coal mines and an investigation by John Cheeves of the Lexington Herald-Leader found that one of Hall's mines was shut down for having only one MET working.miner with sign
  • Senate Bill 64 would allow mine ventilation fans to be turned off between shifts. Like the EMT requirement, that provision was part of the 2007 mine safety law and recognized that explosive methane gas can easily build up in a mine without the fans running continuously. SB 64 (Tom Jensen sponsor) has already passed the Senate, 37-0.
  • Senate Bill 170 originally was intended to make technical corrections in some statutes. Yesterday morning in the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee a committee substitute was offered by Sen. Jensen and approved 11-0 that will allow the required six mine inspections per year to instead be "trainings" or "mine safety analysis."  While these activities are important, they do not carry the weight or enforcement aspect of full inspections. UMWA lobbyist Steve Earle described this bill, if it becomes law, as "a death warrant for Kentucky coal miners. If they get away with this, God help the Kentucky coal miners."

KFTC members were in Frankfort yesterday with union officials and mine safety advocates for a meeting called by Rep. Hall about House Bill 119. Hall did not show.

Instead the group met with Larry Arnett, deputy commissioner of the Department for Natural Resources, and Johnny Greene, director of the Office of Mine Safety and Licensing. While they said that the position of the state is to not to "go backwards" on any mine safety standards, neither Gov. Beshear nor the Office of Mine Safety has taken a public stance opposing HB 119 or the other bills.

The coal industry's Bill Caylor said the bills, if enacted, would pose no added dangers for miners. He added that this was an attempt by miners and their representatives to close small coal mines.

Here's some media coverage about this issue:


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