Coal Tattoo

House GOP tries to end effort to ‘End Black Lung’

UPDATED: As we reported in Saturday’s Gazette-Mail, this little rider made it into the spending bill …

We’ve heard House Republicans talk quite a bit about how much they care about coal miners’ jobs … but what about those coal miners’ lives?

You have to wonder, when you see the GOP leadership sticking riders into appropriations bills like this one, described in a summary of a funding bill for the Department of Labor:

A prohibition on the implementation or enforcement of DOL’s “coal dust” rule until an independent assessment of the integrity of the data and methodology behind the rule is conducted.

That’s right, the majority party’s proposal for funding MSHA (see pages 35-36) would keep the agency from implementing the key provision of its campaign to End Black Lung, a deadly disease that claimed the lives of 10,000 coal miners in the last decade.

The GOP legislation would block MSHA from instituting a tougher coal-dust standard until the U.S. Government Accountability Office “evaluates the completeness of MSHA’s data collection and sampling, to include an analysis of whether such data supports current trends of the incidence of lung disease arising from occupational exposure to respirable coal mine dust across working underground coal miners.”

Never mind the peer-reviewed studies that show a resurgence of black lung in parts of the nation’s coalfields.  Never mind the data showing that miners working under what are currently legal levels of coal dust are developing black lung. And forget about the fact that public health and worker health experts have for years been urging MSHA to do exactly what agency chief Joe Main is trying to do — tighten the legal limit for coal dust.

I don’t know if there’s a war on coal, but you have to wonder if there’s really  a war on coal miners.