KENTUCKY REPUBLICANS ADVANCE BILL TO CUT SAFETY INSPECTIONS INSIDE UNDERGROUND COAL MINES

Safety inspectors would visit Kentucky’s underground mines less often under a bill moving through the state House of Representatives.

The state can reduce the number of times it inspects underground mines each year because the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration also sends its own safety officers into the same mines four times each year, said the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington.

“What we do right now is a lot of duplication,” said Benvenuti, who represents an urban area with no coal mines.

The state requires four inspections of underground mines each year, down from six a year thanks to a provision included in last year’s budget bill. At least two of the four inspections must be full electrical inspections.

House Bill 384 would decrease the number of inspections to three, with only one full electrical inspection. It was approved Wednesday by the House Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee and sent to the full House for its consideration.

Opponents of the bill said scaling back inspections is dangerous for miners.

“I don’t want the blood of dead miners on my hands because I made a decision that reduced the safety in coal mines,” said State Rep. Chris Harris, D-Forest Hills.

The General Assembly raised the number of required mine inspections in 2006 after several mine disasters, including the Darby Mine Explosion that killed five miners in Harlan County.

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