A bill eliminating coal mine inspections by the state sparked a lively debate in the Kentucky Senate Thursday before winning passage and moving to the House.
With the number of operating mines shrinking, proponents of Senate Bill 297 said the federal government can handle the job while the commonwealth's 62 mine inspectors would be better utilized in workplace safety support roles.
"Why not repurpose these?" Senate President Robert Stivers asked. "Why not teach safety habits? Why not do some things that allow these individuals to keep jobs but also assist in mine safety?"
While many opponents agreed that federal regulations have become burdensome for the coal industry, Rep. Robin Webb balked at the idea of totally scrapping state inspections that could prevent future accidents.
"I cannot ever have the blood of my brothers and sister on my hands as a state policymaker," the Grayson Democrat explained, before casting her no vote.
Underground mines are currently inspected at least six times a year by the state and four times by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.