CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Attorney General Patrick Morrisey wants the state Supreme Court to dismiss a new legal action over continuing delays in requiring West Virginia mine operators to install technology that would save workers from being crushed by underground mining equipment.
Morrisey says in a new court filing that the lawsuit did not comply with a state law that requires parties to provide notice to state officials prior to filing such actions.
The filing responds to a suit, filed by the public interest law firm Mountain State Justice on behalf of a coal miner and a miner's widow, alleging inaction by the state Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety and the state Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training.
Elbert Lin, a top assistant to Morrisey, filed it on behalf of the mine safety board.
Lin argues that the board is currently pursuing a regulation to require coal companies to use "proximity detection" devices to prevent crushing and pinning injuries and deaths.
"The board respondents take mine safety seriously and have actively considered proximity detection technology," Lin wrote. "The board meets monthly and each time it has met since September of last year, it has discussed proximity detection technology and the potential to prevent fatalities caused by mobile equipment."
Back in September 2008, four top state mine inspectors drafted a memo recommending specific language that would have given mine operators a year to install this kind of safety technology. But the rule was never approved, and state officials resurrected the idea only after a Gazette story in August that detailed the previous recommendation and noted the state's inaction on it.
At meetings in September, October, November and December, though, mine safety board members remained split 3-3 on moving forward on a labor proposal to require proximity devices. At the December meeting, board members sent the matter to a subcommittee -- scheduled to meet today <co Thursday> -- for still more discussion.