Coal Tattoo

More inaction on Gov. Tomblin’s mine safety law

Earl Ray Tomblin

Here’s the latest on inaction by West Virginia officials on coal-mine safety, from today’s Gazette:

A regulation to implement a key portion of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s year-old mine safety legislation won’t be submitted for final legislative approval until at least 2015, officials said Tuesday.

The Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety allowed its proposed rule to expire without finalizing it — a move that means board members must essentially start the process over from the beginning.

“The proposal is expired, so we have to re-propose that rule,” board administrator Joel Watts told board members during a meeting in Charleston.

Watts said that means whatever final rule the board eventually comes up with won’t be submitted to lawmakers next year and would have to wait until the 2015 session for legislative approval.

The rules at issue are needed to allow the Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training to enforce a tightening of the state’s requirement for mining equipment to be automatically shut off when the explosive gas methane is detected underground.

Under the governor’s bill, the mine safety board — made up of industry and labor representatives appointed by the governor — was supposed to issue the rules by October 2012.

That’s right … these rules were ordered by the Legislature to be written by October 2012 — and now it’s looking like it will be early 2015 before they are submitted to lawmakers for final approval.

We’ve written about this many times before (see here, here and here).

At yesterday’s meeting, board administrator Joel Watts had the matter on the agenda — again — and tried to explain to board members that their inaction so far has put them back at square one of the rulemaking process. When he asked if board members wanted to discuss the issue, the board members all just kind of looked down and tried to stay quiet — eventually quietly agreeing that they’d rather move on to the next item on the agenda.

Tomblin administration Deputy Commerce Secretary Joshua Jarrell attended the meeting, and was sitting at the head of the table. But he didn’t speak up to express any concern on the administration’s behalf about the continued inaction by the board, whose members are labor and industry representatives appointed by the governor.

You have to start to wonder … maybe this methane monitoring language wasn’t really that important after all. Maybe it wasn’t a big safety advance, meaning that the overall legislation wasn’t as great as Gov. Tomblin, his handlers and the legislative leadership tried to make everyone believe it was. I mean, if it was that important, wouldn’t the administration be making sure that these rules got written so the methane monitoring language could be implemented in the state’s coal mines?