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BLUEFIELD | The government announced an emergency rule Tuesday that will require underground mines to do more to control explosive coal dust in the wake of the deadliest U.S. coal mine explosion in 40 years, the first major federal regulatory change since the disaster.

Mine Safety and Health Administration Director Joe Main announced the change at an industry conference in West Virginia’s southern coal fields. The change comes after growing evidence that coal dust played a role in the blast that killed 29 miners and seriously injured two others at West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch mine April 5.

The explosion is the subject of ongoing civil and criminal investigations.

The change will increase to 80 percent the amount of pulverized stone or other inert material that mines must use to dilute coal dust in tunnels that bring fresh air underground. The standard had been 65 percent since the mid-1920s. The dust content in tunnels that return bad air to the outside already must contain 80 percent inert materials.

Mines must comply by Oct. 7 in new areas and by Nov. 22 in existing tunnels, Mr. Main said.


Woman: DA harassed her in pardon case

MADISON | A law student said Tuesday that a Wisconsin prosecutor under fire for sending racy text messages to a domestic-abuse victim also sent her similar texts in 2008 after agreeing to help her seek a pardon for a decade-old drug conviction.

Maria Ruskiewicz said she believes Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz wanted sexual favors in return for supporting her pardon. She said she met Mr. Kratz in his office in 2008, and afterward, the Oklahoma City University law student said Mr. Kratz sent her text messages that soon turned harassing in tone, including one that asked how she would please him in bed.

Miss Ruskiewicz is the third woman to come forward with allegations that Mr. Kratz acted inappropriately as district attorney.

The governor has condemned Mr. Kratz’s behavior as an “unimaginable” abuse of power, if true.

From wire dispatches and staff reports