The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

January 21, 2013

Methane shutoff provision in limbo

Board has yet to write rules needed to enforce mine safety requirement

CHARLESTON — 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 hasn’t 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.”

“The board has not met its obligation under that piece of legislation, as of yet,” Hamilton said.

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 percent 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.

Manufacturers will have to be convinced by mine operators to provide new units. Designing and building new units, and then getting them approved by the federal government for use in underground mines, 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.”

Caputo said industry lobbyists did not raise this issue during negotiations at the Capitol.

Before the bill was passed, mine safety advocate Davitt McAteer said industry officials raised the issue with him. He referred their concerns to the state Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training.

“The failure to fix this suggests we weren’t paying attention,” McAteer said. “We need to make sure these improvements can take place in a reasonable time frame.”

Gov. Earl Ray Tombln said the rules are critical to the safety of miners and their families. He urged the board to reconvene and make the rules a priority.

1
Text Only
West Virginia
  • Another tornado confirmed in West Virginia

    Another tornado has been confirmed in West Virginia.

    July 30, 2014

  • Pierpont, WVU-Parkersburg enter transfer agreement

    West Virginia University at Parkersburg has signed a transfer agreement with Pierpont Community & Technical College.

    July 30, 2014

  • Repairs set for I-77 tunnel

    Some lanes of an Interstate 77 tunnel along the Virginia-West Virginia border where a truck fire occurred are being rerouted for repairs.

    July 29, 2014

  • Veterans crisis center coming to Clarksburg

    The long delays for veterans seeking medical care at VA hospitals have prompted The American Legion to plan a short-term crisis center in Clarksburg.

    July 29, 2014

  • Weekend tornado confirmed in West Virginia

    The National Weather Service has confirmed a tornado touched down in Pleasants and Ritchie counties over the weekend.

    July 29, 2014

  • Rahal: Fund VA reform ‘for our veterans’

     On the cusp of Congress’s lengthy summer break, factions sparring over legislation to strengthen health care and funding reforms for the Department of Veterans Affairs may have reached a compromise.
    Although final details are still in the works, the top two negotiators, Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., released a joint statement that said they had “made significant progress toward and agreement on legislation to make VA more accountable and to help the department recruit more doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals.”

    July 29, 2014

  • Attorney general reaches $950,000 settlement with three financial groups

    West Virginia’s attorney general has reached a $950,000 settlement with three companies over allegations of antitrust law violations.

    July 28, 2014

  • Woman convicted in teen’s slaying moved

    A Monongalia County teenager has been transferred to a state prison to complete her sentence for the slaying of another teenager.
    The Lakin Correctional Center near Point Pleasant said Friday Rachel Shoaf has been booked at the Division of Corrections prison. Shoaf turned 18 last month and had been held in a juvenile facility.

    July 26, 2014

  • Board suspends clinic operator’s license

    A West Virginia board Friday suspended the license of the operator of a pain management clinic where investigators found syringes were being reused. It was the second disciplinary action involving the doctor’s license within a decade.

    July 26, 2014

  • Candidates: Leave global warming debate to scientists

    Two West Virginia congressional hopefuls said during their first candidate forum matchup Thursday that the global warming debate is better left to scientists.
    Democrat Nick Casey and Republican Alex Mooney added that other countries should step up in reducing carbon emissions.

    July 24, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads