The Kentucky Senate will likely restore funding to conduct coal mine inspections in the state budget.
Currently, mines get six state inspections a year. A previous draft of the budget cut the number to two. Senate President Robert Stivers says his chamber will likely restore funding for six inspections.
Originally published on Tue March 25, 2014 10:40 am
The Kentucky Senate has passed its version of the budget, and the state’s Energy and Environment Cabinet is warning it could have dire consequences for coal mine safety.
The Senate’s version of the budget cuts the amount of money the state’s Office of Mine Safety and Licensing to $2,643,200. That’s a 65 percent cut from the amount of money Governor Steve Beshear recommended in his budget, and a 50 percent cut from the House’s version of the bill.
In a statement, Energy and Environment Cabinet officials said the change would hurt the state’s coal industry.
A state House panel has unanimously approved a bill to provide tax incentives to the ailing coal industry.
House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins says his bill will permit tax breaks on machinery and manufacturing for coal-related companies. The Democrat says the breaks are similar to incentives enjoyed by car manufacturing plants in the state and reduce economic strain on the industry.
The words "Kentucky Coal" often summon images of the blackened faces of miners emerging from the dark pits of the eastern mountains. In fact, coal mining in the Commonwealth began long before, in the Western Coal Fields of the 1820s. Ever since, from the first mines of McLean's Drift Bank in Muhlenberg County, to the massive operations beneath many western counties, coal has been a major part of our region's life, its politics, and its economy.
Over the decades, great gains have been made in reducing black lung disease among coal miners. But, recently, there’s been an uptick in the sometimes fatal condition.
Fifty years ago, Central Appalachian Education and Research Center Director Wayne Sanderson said about a third of all miners contracted black lung. Today, the potentially deadly disease afflicts about four to five percent of miners. And, Sanderson said, that number’s climbing.
It’s never happened, but a leading official in the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration believes a fatality-free year in coal mining is achievable.
Joe Main, who the Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Mine Safety and Health Administration was in Lexington for the Central Appalachian Regional Work Safety and Health Symposium. Just forty years ago, before the U-S Mine Safety Act, Main says a miner was killed every day. Last year, he says, 36 American miners died with 20 of them claimed by coal.
Excavation work is underway at a new coal mine in McClean county that could create upwards of 250 jobs.
Lexington-based Rhino Resources Partners is digging the mine near Beech Grove by the Green River.
Company officials hope to begin mining within the year. The mine is expected to produce about eight-hundred-thousand tons of coal in its first year of operations in 2015, but estimates put the deposit at two-million tons per year in the future.
Based on those numbers, Rhino would pay out more than a million dollars in a coal severance tax to the state annually.
A St. Louis-based coal company with mines throughout the region has agreed to phase out its mountaintop removal sites. Patriot Coal agreed to the measure as part of a settlement that grants the company more time to control water pollution at its mines in West Virginia.