Coal Industry Leaders Concerned Over New Mine Safety Laws

By: Julie Maloney Email
By: Julie Maloney Email

Leaders in the coal industry say they're worried about paying tens of thousands of dollars in fines for not meeting safety measures under the new miner safety act. One coal safety director says many companies have applied and met deadlines under the new law, but that may not keep them from being penalized in the event of a disaster.

"You feel kind of smothered because you saw all these things that came out of the new Miner Act of '06," said Dave Blankenship with TECO Coal.

Last year both state and federal government agencies passed new laws addressing safety features in coal mines.

"And in some cases, some have conflicting requirements and trying to figure out which state or federal plan is more stringent so that we have to meet the most stringent requirement," said Bill Caylor with the Kentucky Coal Association.

New requirements include submitting emergency escape plans, practicing disaster drills, and storing more breathing devices underground. Dave Blankenship with TECO Coal says these new laws are causing confusion for coal operators.

"It would be nice to have everything laid out in black and white where you can see it," Blankenship said.

One of the biggest problems right now is mines submitted their escape plans last summer and they still haven't been approved.

"We've actually done mock disasters, used those plans and critiqued them, but in the event that something were to go wrong, something were to happen. I don't know what would happen," Blankenship said.

"What we worry about is the possibility that the plan that was submitted may not be what the federal agency wants which may result in a citation," Caylor said.

MSHA officials say that escape plans are in the approval process and it is possible that mines could be fined if they don't meet federal requirements. However, they say they're trying to review the documents and in the end, the goal is to save lives.

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