Utah Mine Safety Commission members were unable to reach a consensus today on whether to recommend the creation of a state Office of Coal Mine Safety.

The panel agreed on most of the 47 interim recommendations they had drawn up for their meeting at the State Capitol, but the members split on the necessity of a developing full-fledged state agency to monitor Utah's coal mining industry when the federal government already has such an agency, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).

"I really don't see the need in the state of Utah," said panel member and state Senate Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich, D-Price. "If we could work out a way with Congress where they would fund a state program like they're funding theirs, I think it would be a valuable resource to the state of Utah. But to have both is a waste of time."

Critics of the proposal said a state office would duplicate duties already being performed by MSHA and potentially be expensive for the state.

But panel chairman Scott Matheson said he supports the creation of a state office because it would be an independent state agency monitoring MSHA, similar to how the U.S. Justice Department watches the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He also said the state office that he envisions would supplement the efforts of MSHA, not duplicate them.

Dmitrich was the only commission member who was involved in mining the last time Utah had its own coal mining agency, over 30 years ago. He said it was unsuccessful then, and he has little faith it would be any better today.

"I'm sure that when we fully implement the Mine Safety Act of 2006, which hasn't been done yet, we'll have a few years to look at whether we even need a state safety program," Dmitrich said. "If we do need a state program, we need to do it the way the division of Oil, Gas, and Mining did and get funds from the government that would give states the ability to do their own programs."

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