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Illinois brings coal mine safety rules in line with MSHA regulations

Illinois has brought its mining safety regulations in linewith U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration rules, according to a billsigned July 8 by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and created by state Sen. GaryForby, D-Benton.

"The regulations that were more stringent really didn'tdo anything for employee safety," Illinois Coal Association President PhilGonet told S&P Global Market Intelligence. "We didn't believe that itmade mines safer, it just incurred more costs."

He said the previous state law required daily inspections ofthe air behind sealed areas in coal mines but the new regulation only requiresinspections once a week — the frequency required by MSHA standards.

"MSHA doesn't do this without testing and proof,"Gonet says, adding that the stricter seal standards the federal mining watchdogcreated after the 2006 explosion at the Sago Mine meant that inspections couldbe less frequent. He said the governor and Forby made the move in an effort tomake Illinois coal producers more competitive with Indiana and Kentucky, whoserules mirror MSHA's.

The amended law also requiresthe examination of every underground seal before miners can enter the mine if examinersfind more than 1% methane in the air, as well as other safety updatesconcerning things like monitoring technology and escape path inspections.

"Keeping workers safe onthe job is one of the most important things we can do," Forby said in arelease. "I have been around the coal industry my whole life and know howdangerous coal mines can be. If we want to keep the coal industry alive inSouthern Illinois, we need to make sure our mines are safe."

The United Mine Workers ofAmerica had no comment on the bill.