May 19, 2017 - Pennsylvania Senator Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg) is praising a bill that passed the Senate on Tuesday as "a very important piece of legislation for the safety of miners working in the state of Illinois."
Senate Bill 1839 would amend the Coal Mining Act to require mine operators to provide the number of self-contained self-rescuer devices mandated by the Mine Safety and Health Administration Emergency Response Plan, according to Senate documents.
The bill would also require operators to place underground emergency shelters, called rescue chambers, within 1,000 feet instead of 3,000 feet from the nearest working face of each working section of a mine and provide "outby" chambers at distances and locations approved emergency response plan. It also cleans up some language regarding submitting plans to the mining board.
The bill was presented by Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) and is supported by the Illinois Coal Association, as well as others in the industry.
Illinois' coal mine history -- and the tragedy associated with it -- stretches to 1880. One of the state's worst mining disasters was in Cherry, where an underground fire broke out Nov. 13, 1909, killing 259 men, according to the Quad Cities Dispatch-Argus.
Fowler has been a longtime advocate of coal mining, a major economic driver for Southern Illinois despite it losing traction in recent times. Last month, Fowler, as well as several other state legislators, met with coal miners, leaders and stakeholders to discuss coal mining and its future in the state.
“We have to retain what we have right now in the coal industry,” Fowler said at the time, according to the Southern Illinoisan.
SB1839 is currently under review by the House Rules Committee.