Report: Kentucky hits mine inspection goals

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — A new federal report says state regulators were able to complete all required inspections of surface mines in the recent fiscal year, an improvement on the previous year's 88 percent rate.

The report from the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement says a sharp downturn in eastern Kentucky's coal production helped inspectors hit the mark.

In 2012-13, more than 23,000 inspections were performed at nearly 1,800 sites, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported (http://bit.ly/1fLEvwT).

Kentucky had traditionally met the required frequency on more than 98 percent of sites, but it slipped to 83 percent in the 2008-09 fiscal year. The report says that's because several inspectors retired and budget shortfalls prevented filling the slots. The inspection rate in subsequent years remained below 90 percent until the most recent year.

"The credit for this accomplishment goes to our hard working and dedicated inspection and support staff who overcame numerous challenges, including reduced staffing, to achieve this goal," said Steve Hohmann, commissioner of the Department for Natural Resources.

The report said the downturn in regional coal production also helped the state increase its inspection frequency.

Coal companies cut surface production in eastern Kentucky by nearly 28 percent in 2012 and an additional 19.5 percent in 2013, according to the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet.

The state is required to complete one full and two partial inspections each quarter on each active mine site and one full inspection on inactive and abandoned sites.

The report also said the coal industry's compliance rate with mining and reclamation rules was 72 percent in 2012-13, but that was still the lowest level it had been in two decades, according to the OSM evaluation. The agency defines industry compliance as the percentage of joint, random inspections in which federal and state regulators see no violations.

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Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader, http://www.kentucky.com

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