Tech task force considers additions to mine safety credit list - Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Tech task force considers additions to mine safety credit list

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Members of the Mine Safety Technology Task Force are putting together recommendations for tax credit-eligible safety technologies, but a missing member raises questions about what action they can take.

The task force is a blend of industry, labor and safety officials. Among other tasks, its members are charged with recommending mine safety technology that should be eligible for a tax credit on mine safety technology. The director of the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Technology has the final say on what actually ends up on the list.

One requirement is that eligible mine technologies must go beyond federal and state requirements.

Currently, the tax credit is available for development of proximity detectors, through-the-earth communication technologies and personal dust monitors. In a meeting on Thursday, the task force began working on what it would suggest to be added to the list.

Last year, the task force was not able to come to agreement and sent a blank list to the director.

Among the technologies members plan to recommend are coal dust explosability monitors, putting cameras on underground mobile equipment, and methane detection units that can read and report up to three digits of methane concentration.

Proximity detection devices automatically shut down or warn operators when a miner is too close to machines. The three-digit monitors are being requested due to a state requirement on methane concentration that could require a cutoff that needs to be read to two decimal places.

One member said that had proximity detection devices or cameras been in place, some recent mine deaths might have been preventable.

The safety technology must go beyond federal or state requirements and include only depreciable, tangible property. A company claiming the credit can have the business franchise tax reduced by 50 percent of the safety investment. The credit would be applied over a five-year period.

If the credit would reduce the franchise tax more than half, the remainder of the qualified investment could be used to reduce the corporation net income tax.

The task force is also currently challenged by another requirement of the bill. A unanimous vote is required to list a technology for recommendation. One member, Terry Hudson, representing industry on behalf of Patriot Coal, resigned from the task force near the beginning of this year.

Without Hudson, and pending an industry recommendation and subsequent appointment by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, the task force is not sure it can submit the list. While a simple majority of the task force is enough for most of its functions, the mine safety credit list specifically calls for a unanimous vote.

Joel Watts, administrator of the task force, said they have contacted constituent services, but a new member has yet to be appointed.  

"The task force has a whole falls under the general open governmental meetings act for quorums and votes and such, unlike the other boards," Watts said. "That means it's the majority of members present forms a quorum. We have seven members, four can form a quorum. For this one particular issues, the vote requires all members present and the vote is unanimous.

"… The question is now, does that mean all members appointed or what?"

The task force is to send recommendations annually. However, Watts said he thinks it could submit items more often.