Environment
11:40 am
Tue March 25, 2014

Beshear Administration Warns Senate Budget Could Be Devastating to Coal Mine Safety

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.

"The General Assembly, following the Darby Mine disaster, wisely increased funding for mine safety and safety training so that this would not occur in Kentucky mines. The rate of injuries and fatalities in Kentucky mines has been decreasing since that time. With the passage of the Senate version of the House budget plan, every miner in Kentucky will be put at great risk every time they enter a mine.

This budget will force a reduction of approximately 55 to 60 percent in staffing for OMSL from the current 145 down to approximately 85 full-time employees. With the federal and state mandate that mine safety rescue teams be located no further than an hour away from every mine in Kentucky, 72 of the remaining 85 employees would have to be dedicated to rescue efforts for OMSL to maintain this service. The remaining number of employees cannot operate OMSL to provide our miners a safe working environment.”

There are currently six mandatory state mine safety inspections per facility every year. The Senate version of the budget cuts that to two.

Here’s the language from the House version of the budget:

Mine Safety: Notwithstanding KRS 42.4592, the quarterly calculation of the allocation of moneys to coal-producing counties through the Local Government Economic Development Fund shall be made only after each quarterly installment of the annual appropriation of $5,286,400 in each fiscal year is appropriated as General Fund moneys to the Office of Mine Safety and Licensing, Natural Resources budget unit.

And the Senate version:

“Notwithstanding KRS 42.4592, the quarterly calculation of the allocation of moneys to coal-producing counties through the Local Government Economic Development Fund shall be made only after each quarterly installment of the annual appropriation of $2,643,200 in each fiscal year is appropriated as General Fund moneys to the Office of Mine Safety and Licensing, Natural Resources budget unit. Notwithstanding KRS 351.140, the number of mandatory mine safety inspections to be carried out by the Office of Mine Safety and Licensing shall be two annually.”

Now that the budget bill has passed both the House and the Senate, it’ll be up to conference committees to resolve the differences between the two versions. In a story by KPR’s Stu Johnson yesterday, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said he thought an agreement could be reached.

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