Methane shutoff law for W.Va. mines in limbo a year later
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A state mine safety requirement concerning methane is in limbo nearly a year after lawmakers approved it.
A provision in the 2012 mine safety law tightens the state's requirement for mining equipment to be automatically shut off when methane is detected in an underground mine.
The Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety still has not written rules needed to enforce the requirement, The Charleston Gazette reported.
“I know they were struggling with it,” said House Majority Whip Mike Caputo, D-Marion, who is a United Mine Workers official. “I want them to find a way to get this done. That is clearly a key requirement of this mine safety bill.”
Chris Hamilton, a West Virginia Coal Association representative to the board, said board members “have struggled to get the rules written.”
But Hamilton said other provisions of the legislation, including drug-testing requirements for miners and improving mine inspection practices, were more critical than the methane monitor provision.
One unresolved issue is defining when an automatic shutdown should occur. Another is establishing a schedule for when the monitoring and shutdown systems must be in place and operational.
Methane, which is naturally present in coal mines, can explode when the concentration is between 5 and 15 percent of the air. Methane and coal dust fueled the 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine that killed 29 miners.
Federal rules require underground mining equipment to automatically shut down if methane monitors detect the gas at concentrations of 2 percent or greater. The state's new standard sets the threshold at 1.25 percent, but only if this concentration is reached for a “sustained period.”
Lawmakers left the definition of “sustained period” up to the mine safety board.
“We're saying (make mining machines) shut down immediately,” said Ted Hapney, a UMW representative to the mine safety board.
Hamilton said establishing a schedule for the monitoring and shutdown systems is the real holdup. This effort is complicated by the fact that existing methane monitors cannot show the new 1.25 percent standard. Their read-out systems display only two digits.
Designing and building new units, and then getting them approved by the federal government, could take three years or more, Hamilton said.
“People sometimes underestimate the hardware side of changes,” said Mark Sindelar, a West Virginia University engineering professor who has studied methane monitoring systems. “If they would have set it at 1.2 percent or 1.3 percent, it would have been a pretty easy technological change.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Storm knocks out power to New Orleans airport for hours
- Riot erupts in Baltimore after funeral for man hurt in police custody
- Obamacare contraception ruling thrown out
- Administration pushes Iran nuclear pact on 2 fronts
- Honus Wagner baseball card sells for $1.32M
- Boston bomber’s lawyers plead with jury to spare his life
- Man formally charged with murder of Indiana student
- Iowa avian flu outbreak might be spreading
- Lynch takes office as U.S. Attorney General
- Colorado movie theater shooting trial begins
- Top Tulsa sheriff’s aide quits under fire