Republican lawmakers are moving to block a new Obama administration rule aimed at containing black lung disease, which is becoming an epidemic among Appalachian coal miners.
The Charleston Gazette
reported Wednesday the U.S. House Appropriations Committee released a draft proposal Tuesday that would bar the Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration from using federal funds to finalize plans to tighten limits on coal dust and improve other health protections for miners.
United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts said the regulation prohibition “amounts to nothing more than a potential death sentence for thousands of American miners.”
“Preventing black lung isn’t a matter of overregulation,” Roberts added. “It’s a matter of life and death.”
The National Mining Association defended the GOP position. Association spokeswoman Carol Raulston said Republicans are frustrated with the administration’s unwillingness to consider plans already in place within the mining industry to deal with the black lung problem.
The industry maintains the disease in a regional issue that doesn’t require a new national law affecting all mining operations to deal with.
According to the Gazette, more than 10,000 miners died from black lung disease in the years between 1995 and 2004, with West Virginia and Pennsylvania topping the list of where the deaths occurred.
The newspaper also noted a joint investigation by National Public Radio and The Center for Public Integrity, which found that black lung disease is resurging. The investigation also revealed that mining companies don’t accurately report on dust samples and that federal regulators have done little to address the problem.
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