But Caputo criticized White for a proposed rule that backs off across-the-board increases in safety fines in favor the industry's proposal to only raise penalties for more serious violations.
"I don't believe that was the intent of that legislation, and I was involved in it from the beginning, and it's my belief that all fines were to be increased," Caputo said.
Two freshmen House members who are coal miners -- Republicans Josh Nelson, of Boone County, and Randy Smith, of Preston County -- objected to language from last year's legislation increasing from 90 days to 120 days the length of time apprentice miners must work within sight and sound of a supervisor.
"You're really a baby-sitting service for 90 days, because you have to have someone with them all that time," said Smith, a foreman for Mettiki Coal. "Going to 120 days, we're really hampering our actual training of these individuals."
White responded that state regulators recommended the change in state law to increase "sight and sound" requirements following a January 2011 fatality at a Wyoming County mine.
Nineteen-year-old John C. Lester Jr. was a "red hat" apprentice miner who was killed when mine management allowed him to work underground for nearly three hours at Baylor Mining Inc.'s Jim's Branch 3A Mine, state and federal reports said. Lester was found dead in a coal chute, near the dumping point of a conveyor belt. He had apparently fallen into the belt, and was carried to the dumping point area along with a load of coal.
"Management was unable to positively state how Mr. Lester entered the mine on the morning of January 27, 2011," a state report said. "Furthermore, no one gave Mr. Lester instructions or directions that day or informed him under whose supervision he would be. Almost three hours went by on that day without the immediate supervisor on the section, or the mine foreman, checking on the location and safety of this apprentice miner, and only did so upon the request of Jerry Lane."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.