Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bill from Kentucky lawmaker who owns small coal mines would reduce medical help at such mines

UPDATE, April 3: Bill failed.

UPDATE, Feb. 27: The Appalachian News-Express, in Hall's home county, quotes Hall as saying he does not own a mining company but leases coal to a mine, and the two other "mines" mentioned by the Lexington paper were "a three man auger crew he contracted last year" and a crew that built the road to the mine.

A bill in the Kentucky House would weaken mine-safety laws in the state by reducing the number of medical emergency technicians required in coal mines with fewer than 18 employees. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Keith Hall, D-Phelps, is the president of of Beech Creek Coal Co., which operates three mines, all with fewer than 18 employees, reports John Cheves of The Lexington Herald-Leader.

"The minimum requirement of two METs is part of a broad 2007 law the legislature passed that tightened mine safety standards, such as doubling the safety inspections at underground mines," Cheves reports. Lobbying against the bill by coal interest began immediately after the law's passage.

"Typically, mine operators pay about $1 an hour extra to miners certified as METs, who are trained to provide medical care during on-site emergencies,"according to Steve Earle, a United Mine Workers of America lobbyist. That would mean mine operators could save $25 a day by eliminating one MET position. "About 47 percent of the state's 586 coal mines have fewer than 18 employees, according to the state Office of Mine Safety and Licensing," adds Cheves. (Read more)

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