A proposal that would allow the state to levy higher fines and penalties for certain violations involving salt mine operations received the backing Tuesday of the Louisiana House Natural Resources and Environment Committee.

State Sen. Rick Ward, D-Port Allen, filed Senate Bill 139 in response to an on-going environmental incident in Bayou Corne that has resulted in an evacuation order for 150 homes.

The Senate-backed measure is one of several proposals filed in response to the collapsed underground salt mine cavern that scientists say has created a 15-acre sinkhole in the Assumption Parish community. Parish officials and residents have complained that mine operators have been slow to respond to their concerns.

Ward’s bill would allow the state to assess daily fines against companies if they are issued a cease and desist order and they fail to take corrective action, if the state has to respond to an incident caused by a violation and if a violation is found to be caused by willful neglect that causes severe environmental damage.

The proposal would increase the daily penalty for violations from $5,000 to $32,500. In addition, civil penalties could be assessed up to $1 million.

SB139 now moves to the House floor for further debate.