(a) The board shall adopt as standard rules the “coal mine health and safety provisions of this chapter”. Such standard rules and any other rules shall be adopted by the board without regard to the provisions of chapter twenty-nine-a of this code. The Board of Coal Mine Health and Safety shall devote its time toward promulgating rules in those areas specifically directed by this chapter and those necessary to prevent fatal accidents and injuries.
(b) The board shall review such standard rules and, when deemed appropriate to improve or enhance coal mine health and safety, revise the same or develop and promulgate new rules dealing with coal mine health and safety.
(c) The board shall develop, promulgate and revise, as may be appropriate, rules as are necessary and proper to effectuate the purposes of article two of this chapter and to prevent the circumvention and evasion thereof, all without regard to the provisions of chapter twenty-nine-a of this code:
(1) Upon consideration of the latest available scientific data in the field, the technical feasibility of standards, and experience gained under this and other safety statutes, such rules may expand protections afforded by this chapter notwithstanding specific language therein, and such rules may deal with subject areas not covered by this chapter to the end of affording the maximum possible protection to the health and safety of miners.
(2) No rules promulgated by the board shall reduce or compromise the level of safety or protection afforded miners below the level of safety or protection afforded by this chapter.
(3) Any miner or representative of any miner, or any coal operator has the power to petition the Circuit Court of Kanawha County for a determination as to whether any rule promulgated or revised reduces the protection afforded miners below that provided by this chapter, or is otherwise contrary to law: Provided, That any rule properly promulgated by the board pursuant to the terms and conditions of this chapter creates a rebuttable presumption that said rule does not reduce the protection afforded miners below that provided by this chapter.
(4) The director shall cause proposed rules and a notice thereof to be posted as provided in section eighteen, article one of this chapter. The director shall deliver a copy of such proposed rules and accompanying notice to each operator affected. A copy of such proposed rules shall be provided to any individual by the director’s request. The notice of proposed rules shall contain a summary in plain language explaining the effect of the proposed rules.
(5) The board shall afford interested persons a period of not less than thirty days after releasing proposed rules to submit written data or comments. The board may, upon the expiration of such period and after consideration of all relevant matters presented, promulgate such rules with such modifications as it may deem appropriate.
(6) On or before the last day of any period fixed for the submission of written data or comments under subdivision (5) of this section, any interested person may file with the board written objections to a proposed rule, stating the grounds therefor and requesting a public hearing on such objections. As soon as practicable after the period for filing such objections has expired, the board shall release a notice specifying the proposed rules to which objections have been filed and a hearing requested.
(7) Promptly after any such notice is released by the board under subdivision (6) of this section, the board shall issue notice of, and hold a public hearing for the purpose of receiving relevant evidence. Within sixty days after completion of the hearings, the board shall make findings of fact which shall be public, and may promulgate such rules with such modifications as it deems appropriate. In the event the board determines that a proposed rule should not be promulgated or should be modified, it shall within a reasonable time publish the reasons for its determination.
(8) All rules promulgated by the board shall be published in the State Register and continue in effect until modified or superseded in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.
(d) To carry out its duties and responsibilities, the board is authorized to employ such personnel, including legal counsel, experts and consultants, as it deems necessary. In addition, the board, within the appropriations provided for by the Legislature, may conduct or contract for research and studies and is entitled to the use of the services, facilities and personnel of any agency, institution, school, college or university of this state.
(e) The director shall within sixty days of a coal mining fatality or fatalities provide the board with all available reports regarding such fatality or fatalities.
The board shall review all reports and any recommended rules submitted by the director, receive any additional information it requests, and may, on its own initiative, investigate the circumstances surrounding a coal mining fatality or fatalities and ascertain the cause or causes of such coal mining fatality or fatalities. In order to investigate a coal mining fatality or fatalities, a majority of the board must vote in favor of commencing an investigation. Within ninety days of the receipt of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration’s fatal accident report and the director’s report and recommended rules, the board shall review and consider the presentation of said report and rules and the results of its own investigation, if any, and, if a majority of all voting board members determines that additional rules can assist in the prevention of the specific type of fatality, the board shall either accept and promulgate the director’s recommended rules, amend the director’s recommended rules or draft new rules as are necessary to prevent the recurrence of such fatality. If the board chooses to amend the director’s recommended rules or draft its own rules, a vote is required within one hundred twenty days as to whether to promulgate the amended rule or the rule drafted by the board: Provided, That the board may, by majority vote, find that exceptional circumstances exist and the deadline cannot be met: Provided, however, That under no circumstances shall such deadline be extended by more than a total of ninety days. A majority vote of the board is required to promulgate any such rule.
The board shall annually, not later than July 1, review the major causes of coal mining injuries during the previous calendar year, reviewing the causes in detail, and shall promulgate such rules as may be necessary to prevent the recurrence of such injuries.
Further, the board shall, on or before January 10, of each year, submit a report to the Governor, President of the Senate and Speaker of the House, which report shall include, but is not limited to:
(1) The number of fatalities during the previous calendar year, the apparent reason for each fatality as determined by the Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training and the action, if any, taken by the board to prevent such fatality;
(2) Any rules promulgated by the board during the last year;
(3) What rules the board intends to promulgate during the current calendar year;
(4) Any problem the board is having in its effort to promulgate rules to enhance health and safety in the mining industry;
(5) Recommendations, if any, for the enactment, repeal or amendment of any statute which would cause the enhancement of health and safety in the mining industry;
(6) Any other information the board deems appropriate;
(7) In addition to the report by the board, as herein contained, each individual member of said board has right to submit a separate report, setting forth any views contrary to the report of the board, and the separate report, if any, shall be appended to the report of the board and be considered a part thereof.