Associated Press Published

W.Va. Senate Clears Bill Touted by State's Coal Industry

The Republican-led state Senate has cleared a proposal lauded by the struggling coal industry and criticized as dangerous for worker safety by the miners’ union.

Senators voted 26-8 Tuesday for the bill changing safety and environmental standards related to coal mining.

Environmental groups warned the legislation could weaken water quality protections.

Bill proponents said the industry needs all the help it can get. Diminishing coal seams, competition from other states and natural gas, federal regulations and lousy markets are hurting Central Appalachian coal.

Opponents say it’s wrong to reduce protections in a state defined by deadly mining accidents.

Changes range from shielding coal mine companies from some citizen Clean Water Act lawsuits, to allowing less rail track to be laid in mines.

A similar House bill has passed one committee.