"He remains hopeful to have a full legislative package to present, based on those results," Smith said Thursday.
On the rock-dusting issue, Manchin's executive order appeared to put the state out ahead of the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration in addressing a long-standing weakness in rules aimed at preventing deadly explosions.
Under federal and state law, mine operators are required to spread crushed limestone -- or "rock dust" -- in underground mines to control the ability of coal dust to turn small methane ignitions in to huge, deadly explosions. Until it issued an emergency rule this week, MSHA had largely ignored scientific evidence that for years showed that more rock dust than mandated by federal regulations was needed to protect miners.
At a Capitol press conference the week after the Upper Big Branch explosion, Manchin instructed Wooten to "order the immediate inspection of all active underground coal mines in the state."
Manchin's executive order stated, "In addition to performance of any duties required by law ... mine inspectors conducting an inspection pursuant to this order shall collect dust samples in all mines where rock dust is required to be applied and maintained upon the roof, floor and sides of the mine."
In announcing the state was toughening its rock-dust rules, Manchin portrayed the move as an example of his state administration getting ahead of slow-moving federal bureaucrats.
"I'm going to do everything I can in this state," Manchin said in an interview. "I can't wait until the feds start moving."
But it turns out that, even if state inspectors were to take rock-dust samples, they would have had to rely on an MSHA lab in Mount Hope to analyze those samples for them. MSHA spokeswoman Amy Louviere said the state has not sent federal any rock-dust samples since the governor's executive order was issued.
Back in April, part of Manchin's plan was for the state mine safety office to open its own lab. The governor's executive order directed Wooten to "take immediate steps to secure necessary equipment and personnel to test dust samples collected by mine inspectors."
Lawmakers provided Wooten's agency with a more than $400,000 supplemental appropriation in July to fund eight new positions, seven vehicles and equipment required for the rock-dust analysis.
Earlier this week, Wooten said his agency had started to set up the lab at its offices in Washington Street in Charleston's East End. But then the governor's office told the agency that it wanted the lab to instead be located at the former Dow Tech Center in South Charleston, where Manchin has been promoting a "West Virginia Education, Research and Technology Park."
"We do not yet have a target date for completion," Fitzwater said in her e-mail to the Gazette. "But we are moving forward and will establish this testing facility as quickly as we are able to do so."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.