PIKEVILLE, Kentucky — The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration is planning on phasing out its Pikeville, Kentucky office in a move that could lead to the loss of as many as 100 of the approximately 150 positions held at the office.
Over the next 15 months, the administration will split the Pikeville employees' duties between its offices in Norton, Virginia and Barbourville, Kentucky, The Independent reports (http://bit.ly/1CtsrNr). Some mine inspector positions will be eliminated, while other employees will be transferred.
The administration says the move is a response to a decline in central Appalachian mining.
Tony Oppegard, a mine safety advocate and attorney who represents miners, said the move was not surprising.
"About 75 percent of the mines operating three years ago (in the area) are no longer operating today," said Oppegard.
However, he said greater distances between the offices will lengthen the response times of safety inspectors.
Danielle Smoot, a spokeswoman for Kentucky Republican Congressman Hal Rogers, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said Rogers had no involvement with the decision to close the Pikeville office.
"Those decisions are made at the sole discretion of agency officials in Washington, D.C.," Smoot said.
The entire process is supposed to be completed by Oct. 1, 2016, the first day of a new federal fiscal year.
Information from: The Independent, http://www.dailyindependent.com