Mine Safety Bill Not Dead

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Lawmakers may heed the tearful pleas of
the widows of dead coal miners who came to Frankfort last week to
ask for stronger mine safety laws.
House Speaker Jody Richards said Tuesday the mine safety
legislation, which stalled last week, isn't dead yet, and seems to
be moving through the process. Richards said he expects the
legislation to be approved by the House and sent to the Senate for
consideration.
"I certainly hope so," he said. "I'm very much in favor of
that legislation."
State Rep. Brent Yonts, D-Greenville, said he has made some
revisions to the legislation in an effort to get it moving again.
And a key lawmaker who had stymied the original version, state Rep.
Jim Gooch, D-Providence, said Tuesday he may allow the revised
version to be voted on in the House Natural Resources and
Environment Committee.
Natural Resources Commissioner Susan Bush said in letter earlier
this week that her office is supportive of the legislation as
revised. Her endorsement, however, included the caveat that
lawmakers need to appropriate money to cover the cost of
implementing each of the provisions, including one that would
double the number of mandatory state inspections at underground
mines.
Among other provisions, the legislation would require inspectors
to visit each mine six times per year, require companies to provide
methane detectors to every miner and put trained medics at each
mine.
Under the revisions, the additional inspections wouldn't be
mandatory until 2009, after the Office of Mine Safety and Licensing
has added the personnel necessary to carry them out. It also would
give companies until 2008 to purchase the methane detectors.
Gooch, chairman of the Natural Resources and Environment
Committee, had refused to allow a vote on the measure, and, even
after the tearful testimony last week, he would not commit to
bringing the matter up for a vote in the current legislative
session.
However, on Tuesday, Gooch said he may reconsider in light of
the proposed revisions.
"If we can get it worked out, it's possible," Gooch said.
Demonstrators are expected at the Capitol on Wednesday for a
rally in support of the mine safety legislation.
The legislation follows one of the deadliest years in recent
history for coal miners in Kentucky. In all, 16 miners were killed
on the job in 2006. Five of the deaths were from a single Harlan
County underground mine explosion in May.
State law now requires more oxygen supplies to be stored along
underground escape routes in case of emergency, better
communications between the surface and underground work areas, and
a directional cord or lifeline to make it easier for miners to find
their way to exits.
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The legislation is House Bill 207.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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