W.Va. lawmakers clears bill touted by state's coal industry

 W.Va. lawmakers clears bill touted by state's coal industry

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia lawmakers have approved a proposal lauded by the struggling coal industry and criticized as dangerous for worker safety by the miners' union.

House delegates voted 73-25 Friday to approve the bill changing coal mine safety and environmental standards. Senators cleared a slightly different version earlier this month.

Bill proponents said the industry needs all the help it can get. Diminishing coal seams, competition from other states and natural gas, federal regulations and lousy markets are hurting Central Appalachian coal.

Opponents say it's wrong to reduce protections in a state defined by deadly mining accidents.

Environmental groups warned the legislation could weaken water quality protections.

Changes range from shielding coal mine companies from some citizen Clean Water Act lawsuits, to allowing less rail track to be laid in mines.

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