Commentary: Conflicts of interest when coal mining, politics mix

This editorial appeared in The Lexington Herald-Leader.

Tell the truth. Was anyone startled to learn that the Kentucky legislator who's pushing a rollback in mine safety would receive a direct financial benefit from the change?

Rep. Keith Hall's self-serving use of his elected office is outrageous.

Sadly, though, it's typical of a General Assembly that takes a generous view of its own conflicts of interest and that's loaded with lawmakers whose personal livelihoods are tied to the coal industry.

In this case, Hall, D-Phelps and the owner of three mines, is sponsoring House Bill 119 which would reduce from two to one the number of mine emergency technicians required at mines employing fewer than 18 workers.

Hall, whose mines – you guessed it – employ fewer than 18 workers, says the requirement can shut down an entire shift if a small crew is scheduled to work and one of the METs calls in sick.

But having no MET on duty can shut down an entire human life as the small crew working at H & D Mining in Harlan County on Dec. 30, 2005 could attest.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Lexington Herald-Leader.