The4th meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources was held on Wednesday, October 11, 2006, at 1:00 PM, in Room 171 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Jim Gooch Jr, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Tom Jensen, Co-Chair; Representatives Jim Gooch Jr, Co-Chair, and Thomas M McKee, Co-Chair; Senators Ernie Harris, Robert J (Bob) Leeper, Vernie McGaha, and Damon Thayer; Representatives Royce W Adams, Adrian K Arnold, James E Bruce, Dwight D Butler, Mike Cherry, James R Comer Jr, Howard D Cornett, Tim Couch, W Milward Dedman Jr, Mike Denham, C B Embry Jr, Jimmy Higdon, Charlie Hoffman, Reginald K Meeks, Brad Montell, Don R Pasley, Marie L Rader, Rick W Rand, Steven Rudy, Terry Shelton, Brandon D Smith, Jim Stewart III, Tommy Turner, Ken Upchurch, Robin L Webb, and Susan Westrom.
Guests:† Secretary Teresa Hill and Commissioner Susan Bush, Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet.
LRC Staff:† Tanya Monsanto, Biff Baker, Lowell Atchley, Hank Marks, Clark Baird, and Kelly Blevins.
Rep. Gooch thanked the members for their attendance and then recognized Rep. McKee for a motion to adopt two committee resolutions recognizing the years of service of two retiring members of the Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources:† Rep. Jim Bruce and Rep. Adrian Arnold.† After a motion and a second, the resolutions were approved by voice vote.
Then, Rep. Gooch asked for a motion and second to approve the minutes of the September meeting.† After a motion and second, the minutes were approved by voice vote.†
Rep. Gooch recognized Sen. Harris for a report of the Natural Resources Subcommittee.† Sen. Harris stated that representatives from the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet discussed the status of Kentuckyís watershed dams and dam safety in general.† Cabinet officials explained that approximately $20 million dollars is needed to repair Kentuckyís dams.† There is a federal program that provides matching funds, but local governments have trouble raising enough money through the conservancy districts.† After a motion and a second, the report of the Natural Resources Subcommittee was approved.
Next, Rep. Gooch recognized Rep. Westrom for the report of the Horse Farming Subcommittee.† Rep. Westrom discussed the importance of the standard bred industry to Kentucky.† She stated that the Breederís Incentive Fund has been instrumental in encouraging stallions to return to Kentucky.† The subcommittee also received a report on the Race for Education scholarships which are made available to persons interested in pursuing a career in the horse industry.† After a motion and a second, the report was approved by voice vote.
Rep. Gooch then recognized Rep. Denham for the report of the Rural Issues Subcommittee.† Rep. Denham stated that the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and Kentucky Farm Bureau discussed their upcoming legislative issues.† Specifically discussed were updating the ginseng statutes, funding the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, and pesticide usage to contain West Nile virus.† Kentucky State University discussed the aquaculture program and the need for a new laboratory.† After a motion and a second, the report of the Rural Issues Subcommittee was approved.
Rep. Gooch invited representatives from the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet to provide testimony.† Rep. Gooch congratulated Secretary Teresa Hill for her recent appointment as Secretary for the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet.† He thanked Secretary Hill for her attendance and asked her to provide some introductory remarks.† Secretary Hill described the scope and breadth of the cabinetís jurisdiction.†
Then, Secretary Hill talked about funding for state mine inspectors.† She stated that 10 new mines inspectors have been added.† Seven inspectors are currently funded.† The federal Mine Safety Act authorized 200 new inspectors at a higher pay than state inspectors.† This caused a shortage of state applicants.† However, the salaries for state inspectors have been increased and Kentucky is now competitive with the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) inspectors.† Secretary Hill stated that the cabinetís principal role is that of protection and we must work with industry and the legislature to ensure compliance with the laws.
Rep. Gooch stated that the members of the committee are very interested in the effectiveness of the cabinet and will be very interested in working with you.†
Rep. Cornett congratulated Secretary Hill on her appointment and stated that one of his biggest concerns was the discrepancy in pay for inspectors at the state and federal level.† He asked what the pay is for an Mine Inspector I.† Secretary Hill replied that the pay is $43,000 per year which reflects an increase.
Senator Jensen stated that he has known Secretary Hill for many years and can attest to her good character.† He stated that Secretary Hill will be a quick study and will enjoy working with Commissioner Susan Bush.
Representative Westrom asked about the impact anticipated retirements of state employees will have on the Office of Mine Safety and Licensing in 2008.† Will this impact the number of inspectors you have?† Secretary Hill replied that the cabinet is conducting a survey of employees to determine the impact.† When that information is complied, the cabinet can make it available to you.
Commissioner Bush then discussed implementation of Senate Bill 200.† This bill went into effect on July 12, 2006.† Several sessions were conducted to educate workers, management and the mine industry in general about the requirements and duties under the new provisions of the bill.† In addition, the Office of Mine Safety and Licensing conducted training sessions with inspectors.† We will be conducting 3 inspections of underground mines per year.†
A toll-free number was established and distributed to industry to make reports of accidents and inspectors are currently enforcing the new standards.† Additional enforcement tools were created in SB 200.† There is a penalty structure that will be addressed in administrative regulations.†
There are currently 545 licensed mines in Kentucky.† The bill required new standards such as ventilation plans and roof control plans.† Then the commissioner added that the Mine Equipment Review panel is one of the more interesting features of the bill.† The panel members have been appointed and will be meeting to review equipment such as wireless tracking, self-contained self-rescuers (SCSRs), chambers, mitigation technologies to prevent fire ignitions, and mine seals.† A report is expected from this panel on November 28, 2006.†
Then Commissioner Bush discussed two other safety initiatives:† SCSR safety inspections and a mine seal initiative.† The SCSR safety inspections included examination of existing SCSRs in use, and training for miners and inspectors on their correct usage.† Of the SCSRs inspected, 134 were deemed in need of replacement.† Regarding the mine seal initiative, all mines were required to monitor all alternative seals.† The inspectors examined 2,100 omega seals and the office did identify some problem seals.† This is considered a preventative measure.
Commissioner Bush noted that changes in the federal Mine Safety Act have created problems for Kentuckyís mine rescue program.† According to new federal rules, mine rescue teams must train at every mine across the state two times a year. We donít have the resources to be able to do this kind of statewide training.
Rep. Gooch asked if Kentucky is the only state with rescue teams.† Commissioner Bush replied that Kentucky is the only state that provides mine rescue teams statewide.† Rep. Gooch asked if the federal law will hurt Kentucky.† Commissioner Bush responded yes.† There is no way that Kentucky can do two drills in every mine that we cover.
Rep. Smith stated that there will be a memorial on October 14 for the survivors of the Sago and Darby mine disasters.† Everyone is encouraged to attend.†
Rep. Cornett also encouraged members to attend. He stated that one of the concerns voiced by operators in his district is that the smaller mines cannot afford their own teams.† Commissioner Bush responded that Kentucky has the best trained people working on the mine rescue teams.† It would be a shame if those resources were no longer available.
Rep. Webb stated that Kentucky has traditionally made safety a priority and SB 200 is a model for the nation and other states.† She asked where Kentuckyís congressional delegation stood when the federal mandate was established.† How did this happen?
Sen. Jensen asked three questions. †First, are there enough SCSRs for miners?† We had concerns that there would be backlogs in supplies.† Second, are you looking at other mine rescue devices?† Finally, who comprises the rescue teams?
Commissioner Bush responded that the problem with backordered SCSRs was addressed by requiring an order date.† There continue to be backlogs, but there are a couple of suppliers and the backlogs arenít as severe as first thought.† Also, we are looking into other devices such as rescue chambers.† Our mine safety inspectors and analysts are part of the mine rescue teams.† We have more mines than other states.
Rep. Gooch asked how detailed drills are the federally-mandated drills.† Commissioner Bush stated that state-mandated mine emergency drills are above and beyond the required federal drills.† Our standards are higher.
Rep. Adrian Arnold asked if Kentucky has a reciprocity agreement with other states.† Commissioner Bush said yes.† There is no formal agreement, but we do work cooperatively.
Rep. Gooch asked if different types of SCSRs worked differently. Will there be problems using different types of SCSRs?† Commissioner Bush replied that there are only two suppliers so we do not anticipate problems.† The companies have a responsibility to train their employees on using the SCSR regardless of its type.
Rep. McKee thanked the Commissioner for her presentation and welcomed Secretary Hill.† He asked about inspections of limestone quarries, and mines.† Commissioner Bush replied that we provide rescue services to quarries and other services if needed.† We regulate the environmental impacts of quarries but the safety is regulated by MSHA, not the state.
Commissioner Bush then updated the committee on the drug and alcohol testing program.† She stated that Kentucky has the first statewide drug and alcohol testing program for miners in the nation.† Kentucky has thus far tested 1,900 applicants.† Only 43 have failed which is approximately 2.2% of those applied.† When coal companies dismiss an employee, the company must notify the commissioner so the certificate can be suspended.† Thus far 89 miners have been suspended; 40 miners have filed appeals; and, 15 to 20 miners have had their permits conditionally reinstated.† The aim is rehabilitation of the employee.† Applicants must pay the cost of the initial test and the fee is $30.00 for a test.
Rep. Gooch then thanked the presenters and asked if there were any questions.† Seeing none, Rep. Gooch asked for a motion to adjourn.† After a motion and a second, the committee adjourned by voice vote.