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Bill that would lower number of emergency staff required for smaller coal mining shifts passes through committee

Perry County will receive $3.8 million in coal severance tax funds this year and Perry Judge-Executive Scott Alexander said the money will be used to promote economic development and quality of life.

House Bill 85, which would lower the number of emergency staff required for smaller coal mining shifts, passed the House of Representatives’ Committee on Natural Resources and Energy Thursday.

The bill would set the minimum number of working mine emergency technicians or medical staff to one per shift, if ten or less miners are working.

State law currently requires at least two technicians on hand, no matter how many workers are on shift.

Bill co-sponsor Bill Wesley, a Republican from District 91, says it addresses workforce shortages in the coal industry.

“The state does not have the number of technicians needed to keep the mines operating,” Wesley said. “This allows our smaller mines to operate safely while facing the reality of our current workforce shortages.”

Opponents say it rolls back necessary protections for coal miners. Lindsey Burke, a Democrat representing Fayette County, explained her opposition during the Committee vote.

“For me personally, there are other solutions to workforce shortages, such as raising pay or increasing benefits rather than decreasing safety,” Burke said.

The bill is now set to be read on the House floor.

Shepherd joined WEKU in June 2023 as a staff reporter. He most recently worked for West Virginia Public Broadcasting as General Assignment Reporter. In that role, he collected interviews and captured photos in the northern region of West Virginia. Shepherd holds a master’s degree in Digital Marketing Communication and a bachelor’s in music from West Virginia University.
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