Senate Committee Aproves Increase for Coal Mine Permit Fees

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- – An increase in permit fees for surface coal mines is on its way to the Senate floor. The action by the Senate budget committee comes despite the objections of an environmental organization.

The additional money would be spent on additional inspectors, who would work to accelerate the state permitting process. Pike county senator Ray Jones believes by eliminating a backlog of permit applications, the measure may help boost coal jobs. "We can't replace 50-60-70 thousand dollar a year jobs with jobs making hamburgers or working at Wal-mart. If you want to find money, if you want there to be general fund money for mine safety and for every other need that we have, we need to get people back to work."

But a leading environmentalist worries an increase in surface coal mining permit fees could make the mines more dangerous. Instead of focusing on speeding up the coal permit process, Tom Fitzgerald with the Kentucky Resources Council says the state should fund state inspectors who enforce safety regulations.

The bill passed unanimously out of the senate committee and now will be considered in a full floor vote.