An MSHA spokeswoman confirmed that the process will be phased, occurring over several months.
“In the mix is a plan to combine Coal District 6 with other coal districts,” MSHA spokeswoman Amy Louviere said. “MSHA’s goal is to maintain a sufficient MSHA presence in eastern Kentucky to adequately protect worker safety and health, and staff affected by the consolidation will have an opportunity to apply for positions within the agency.”
While not confirmed by MSHA, some media reports have indicated that between 100 and 150 inspectors from the Pikeville location will be impacted, with others transferred to the District 5 office in Virginia or the Barboursville District 7 site.
Additionally, the reports have said that the Norton, Virginia, federal office could move to Pound, Virginia, and that field offices in Whitesburg and Martin, Kentucky, could be affected.
MSHA confirmed that the target timeline for it to “realign its existing staff” could commence in October 2016 but did not elaborate on specific moves.
“A number of offices will be affected while the agency takes responsible actions to realign staff to carry out its mission under the Mine Act,” she said. “The field offices most impacted by mine closures will be affected. The number of affected positions has not yet been determined.”
In a 263-page House appropriations bill, the potential for changes was outlined, and MSHA said this week that both the agency and Congress “have recognized these as prudent actions that should be taken” in light of operational changes.
“The committee appreciates that MSHA is undertaking an effort to redistribute enforcement activity and personnel to reflect the changing levels of coal mining production across MSHA regions and encourages MSHA to continue [to] review and accelerate these efforts in order to most effectively align enforcement activity with current production levels,” regulators said.
The full text of the bill is available here.