During negotiations with coal industry and United Mine Workers lobbyists, the language was rewritten so that the automatic shutdown would occur only if methane concentrations reached 1.25 percent for a "sustained period."
Lawmakers required the Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety to write rules to define the phrase "sustained period." The rules were due in October 2012.
Board members have for months been unable to agree on a definition of "sustained period." UMW officials want to define it to require an immediate shutdown when methane reaches 1.25 percent. Industry officials want to build in some lag time, even if it's only a few seconds.
Since the legislation passed, industry officials also said that they discovered that all machine-mounted methane monitors would have to be redesigned and reapproved by MSHA before the new law could be implemented. That approval process alone could take more than a year, officials have said, meaning it could be two to three years before the new monitoring requirements are implemented across the industry.
Watts said the board decided Wednesday to adopt the MSHA rules, except that the state would require mining equipment to be automatically shut down when methane reaches 1.5 percent, not 2.0 percent as federal rules mandate. He said the board's goal was to provide "an increased level of safety" beyond what MSHA now requires.
The board's proposal is scheduled to take effect Nov. 1, Watts said.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.