Coal Tattoo

The Obama administration appears to be proposing a two-year phase-in of a long-recommended tighter legal limit for coal dust that causes deadly black lung disease.

Copies of the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration proposal are available now through the Federal Register the Department of Labor Web site here,  in advance of a news conference scheduled by MSHA chief Joe Main and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis later today.

According to the proposal, the legal limit on coal dust in underground mines — currently 2.0 milligrams per cubic meter of air — would be tightened to 1.7 milligrams six months after the rule is finalized. The limit would be tightened to 1.5 milligrams in a year and then to 1.0 milligrams a year after that.

MSHA says in the proposal:

MSHA is proposing a 24-month phase-in period to allow the mining community the opportunity to identify, develop and implement feasible engineering controls; train miners and mine management in new technology and control measures; and to improve their overall dust control program.

According to MSHA:

The proposed rule would significantly improve health protections for this Nation’s coal miners by reducing their occupational exposure to respirable coal mine dust and lowering the risk that they will suffer material impairment of health or functional capacity over their working lives.

Check back … we’ll have more on this later today.

UPDATED: For a quick commentary on this, see The Pump Handle, where Celeste Monforton calls the Obama proposal a “bold step.”