Two California representatives want three Kentucky coal operators to pay the more than $1.5 million in fines they owe the federal government.

George Miller and Lynn Woolsey sent the letter to Jack Ealy and Ralph Napier, the president and vice president of K and D Mining, as well as John North of Jackrock, LLC, last week. Napier and North operated the Kentucky Darby Mine No. 1 in Harlan County, where five miners were killed in 2006.

During inspections earlier this year, the Mine Safety and Health Administration uncovered several serious violations at a K and D mine—Mine Number 17 in Harlan County. In the letter, Miller and Woolsey outline their concerns about the way the mine is being operated…then ask the operators to devise a plan to pay the $1.568 million they collectively owe for violations.

The impunity with which some operators fail to pay overdue fines has been an ongoing oversight and legislative concern of ours. It would appear that current law does not provide sufficient incentives for operators to pay overdue fines, and that despite numerous and sometimes significant penalty assessments, operators may lack sufficient economic incentives to improve safety.

As James Carroll of the Courier-Journal reported last month, Kentucky mine operators owe the government $29.2 million in delinquent fines–the most in the nation.