Here are the Facts About the Coal Jobs and Safety Act of 2015
Does S.B. 357 decrease miner safety or environmental controls?
Moving of Mining Equipment –
This current law was written in the early 1970s in response to a mining accident with fatalities. Since then mining designs have changed (only 6 have trolley wire like the 1970s mine), mining equipment now has fire suppression devices, power supply lines have emergency shut off designs to prevent fires, and the airflow design is much safer. An update to the current federal standards is responsible.
Diesel Commission –
Currently we have a commission that approves the use of diesel equipment in mines. However, the Office of Miners Health Safety and Training (OMHST) completes all the testing of equipment. In fact, in his testimony to the House Energy Committee, Gary Trout (UMWA appointee to the Commission) stated that nobody on the commission is diesel certified and that he himself has no underground diesel mining experience. This is unacceptable. We are asking for the OMHST to assume the commission’s responsibilities to keep mine safety decisions in the hands of mine safety experts.
Drug Testing –
There are two drug testing processes for coal miners, one for union miners and one for non-union miners. In the case of a union miner a positive drug test may never be acted on by the OMHST because it goes through arbitration. Non-union miners’ drug tests go directly to the OMHST. All miners should be handled in the same manner when it comes to drugs in coal mines.
Inactive Status –
The WV DEP restricts to three years the amount of time a coal mine may remain on inactive status before reclamation must commence. Given the current market, we are asking the DEP to adopt rules that loosen this requirement like the federal regulations do. Why? Mines that may not be competitive in this market might be in five or six years. If we reclaim now, we can never mine that coal again.
Aluminum Standards –
Recent studies have shown that the potential effect aluminum has on toxicity of water directly correlates to the hardness of a stream’s water. The DEP was poised to change its standards to a hardness-based standard last year and is supportive of pursuing this year. In fact, speaking to all the proposed environmental provisions of S.B. 357, Randy Huffman (Secretary of the DEP) said in the Senate Judiciary Committee that he sees no problem with any of the recommendations in S.B. 357.