Coal Tattoo

MSHA black lung plan coming soon?

Late last week, the White House gave its approval — “consistent with change” — to the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration’s much-anticipated rulemaking proposal on coal dust and black lung, a disease that has killed 10,000 coal miners in the last decade.

Over at The Pump Handle blog, Celeste Monforton has a brief piece anticipating MSHA’s release of its proposal to the public:

The proposal was returned to MSHA from OIRA with the notation that it is approved “consistent with change.” Depending on the complexity of the comments made by OIRA, MSHA’s proposal could be published in the Federal Register in the next several weeks. I’ve written previously (here, here, here) about why these rules are necessary and long overdue.

The MSHA proposal is expected to integrate issues such as lowering the coal dust exposure limit, verification of mine operators’ dust control plans, single-shift sampling, and devices to continuously monitor respirable dust concentrations. Some of these ideas were proposed in July 2000 by MSHA during the Clinton Administration, but Mr. Main (at the time he was the UMWA’s H&S director) called that plan “fatally flawed.” As a result, the rule was not finalized. Now, with Mr. Main at the helm as the asst. secretary of labor for MSHA, I’ll be eager to see how his proposal tackles these complex issues. In the end, the objective is getting a progressive rule on the books to eliminate, once and for all, black lung disease among U.S. miners.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the real issue to look for — the main one that matters — is whether the Obama administration decides to revert back its original promise and actually propose to tighten the legal limit for coal dust that causes black lung.

Stay tuned …