Mine-safety laws moving forward
Share with others:
HARRISBURG -- Miners no longer rely on mules to drag baskets of coal or open flames to guide the way, but the state's mine safety laws regulate the use of both.
Meanwhile, the laws make no mention of modern extraction equipment or computerized mapping of mine shafts.
That's about to change.
Yesterday, the state Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee unanimously approved a comprehensive overhaul of the state's mine-safety laws. The bill -- the first rewrite of the mine-safety laws in half a century -- now heads to the Senate floor. A vote could come next week, said the committee's chairwoman, Sen. Mary Jo White, R-Venango.
The bill, which applies only to bituminous coal mines, calls for the creation of a safety board to review and recommend technologies to improve mine conditions. It also would give owners and operators primary responsibility for mine safety, require more stringent verification of mine maps and require barriers to be built between new and abandoned mines.
"I am hopeful that this legislation, once enacted, will help us prevent future accidents like the ones that took place at Quecreek and Sago," said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Richard Kasunic, D-Dunbar. "By requiring reasonable precautions, removing guesswork and giving this proposed mine-safety board greater oversight and input, I am confident this legislation would help us craft the best possible precautions against future mine tragedies."
Mine safety is especially important now, given efforts to increase domestic energy sources and decrease reliance on foreign oil, officials said at yesterday's committee hearing.
The bill has the backing of mine owners, operators and workers, although some wanted it to go further, Mrs. White said. Workers won their quest for a stipulation to allow a designee to accompany officials on mine safety inspections, but lost the right to be paid by the mining company for that time.
Mrs. White said that is a labor issue, not a legislative one.
"At some point, you have to say we've gone as far as we can [in negotiating legislation] and it's time to move on and pass the bill," she said.
First Published January 16, 2008 12:00 am