Legislation to improve safety in the state's approximately 200 bituminous coal mines was poised to become law after a marathon negotiation yielded a compromise bill endorsed Monday by both the coal companies and mine workers union.
The state Senate unanimously approved the bill and it was headed to the House, where leaders of the Democratic majority have pledged to pass it this week. It is the first major rewrite of the state's mining law in nearly 50 years.
The 250-page bill was in the making since 2002, when nine miners were rescued from the flooded Quecreek Mine in western Pennsylvania. Even the number, Senate Bill 949, is an echo of the "nine-for-nine" cry that former Gov. Mark Schweiker made famous during the rescue.
Under the measure, state inspectors for the first time could impose fines for safety infractions on mine owners, instead of just supervisors. The bill also would establish a seven-member safety board which, among other things, would be tasked with keeping the law in step with advances in mine safety technology and practices.
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