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House committee gets started on coal safety bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The House Judiciary Committee began work Monday on the contentious Coal Jobs Safety Act as one delegate attempted to get those testifying before the committee put under sworn oath.

“I think these are special circumstances,” Del. Tim Manchin (D-Marion) contended. “I think that we’re talking about rolling back mine safety standards. I think before we do we need to make sure that the information that we are provided is truthful information.”

Judiciary Committee Chairman John Shott (R-Mercer) said such a move would likely reduce the amount of information the committee would be able to gather on the issue.

“I think that’s a substantial change. I think we need to take into account that oftentimes we ask people to appear on short notice when they have little time to prepare and now to require those folks to testify under oath, I think it’s going to have a real chilling effect on the amount of testimony we gain during these hearings,” Shott said.

The committee voted down the motion 13-10.

The bill, which has already cleared the Senate, would change a number of rules and regulations in the coal industry. Supporters have said some of those measures are expensive and make it difficult with West Virginia coal to compete with other states. In some cases the state regulations exceed federal regulations. Opponents have criticized the bill claiming it will give even more power to coal operators like Don Blankenship and will put miners in dangerous situations.

The judiciary committee discussed the bill for several hours Monday but did not take a vote.

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