Last week, anti-environment lawmakers in the House launched yet another attack on crucial safeguards on health and clean air. The Labor, Health and Human Services spending bill released Tuesday explicitly forbids the use of funds to develop limits on coal dust, which has been directly linked to black lung disease in coal miners.
Black lung disease has killed more than 10,000 coal miners since 1995 – and the problem is only getting worse. Cases of black lung have doubled in the last decade, a phenomenon experts have attributed to poor coal dust regulation. United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts said the budget measure “amounts to nothing more than a potential death sentence for thousands of American miners,” calling black lung prevention “a matter of life and death.”
Still, the political allies of Big Coal refuse to recognize the link between coal dust and black lung. Rep. Larry Buchson (R-IN) blamed the prevalent disease on coal miners’ refusal to wear safety equipment. “I see a lot of patients with workplace related respiratory problems, some of which are, to put it bluntly, their own issue,” said Buchson. “I don’t see what the really big push for regulating this at the time.” Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee Hal Rogers (R-KY) also declared the coal dust limit “harmful and costly to the industry and to the economy.”