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Legislature considers sinkhole protection legislation

MIAMI, Okla. (AP) _ New legislation would allow Oklahomans to insure their homes against damage caused when abandoned mines collapse, creating sinkholes.

State law does not let property owners insure themselves against sinkholes.

The bill is particularly important in Ottawa County, where at least two sinkholes have appeared in the last two years, said Rep. Larry Roberts, D-Miami.

House Bill 1530 would create the Oklahoma Subsidence Insurance Act, requiring insurers to make mine settlement coverage available for residential and commercial buildings.

The bill by Rep. Kevin C. Cox, D-Oklahoma City, originally was written to cover damage caused by subsiding coal mines. Roberts amended the bill to include abandoned lead and zinc mines, which are prevalent in Ottawa County.

The legislation would create a fund to collect insurance premiums and hold federal and state funds. Fund administrators would be responsible for setting rates, deductibles, premiums and classifications for insurance.

Five states have enacted similar legislation, Roberts said.

Roberts' northeastern Oklahoma district includes a 40-square-mile abandoned mining area in the towns of Picher, Commerce, Quapaw, Cardin and Miami.

Mining ended there in the early 1970s. About 10 percent of the land is on top of abandoned lead and zinc mines, Roberts said.
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