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Coal Miners Tell Lawmakers To Reject Changes To State Mine Safety Law

Public Hearing 022822 Mining.jpg
Perry Bennett
/
WV Legislative Photography
Coal miners wait to speak at a public hearing on House Bill 4840, which would change the state's mine safety law.

Coal miners and their supporters testified against a bill that would change state mine safety law.

About 20 miners, many wearing their work clothes, lined up Monday evening to urge lawmakers to oppose HB 4840.

The bill was introduced last week in the House Government Organization committee and moved quickly to the House floor. Democrats tried and failed to send the bill to the Judiciary Committee to permit more testimony and questions.

The bill’s opponents say it would weaken the state’s mine safety code. State mine inspectors would no longer be able to show up unannounced and would lose the power to issue fines.

It would also cut the training time for new miners to three months from six months.

Chad Francis, a third-generation miner and union representative, listed some of West Virginia’s worst mine disasters as the reason for the law.

“Ask the widows and orphans of Sago, Aracoma, Farmington, Buffalo Creek and Upper Big Branch if coal companies always do what’s right,” he said.

Only Chris Hamilton, the president of the West Virginia Coal Association, spoke in favor of the changes.

Energy & Environment Reporter, ctate@wvpublic.org, 202-679-8470, @tatecurtis

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