Rise in Black Lung disease fault of companies, regulators


DECEMBER 18, 2018

[TRIANGLE, VA.] United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts issued the following statement today:

            “The news story from NPR and Frontline this morning about a new epidemic of Black Lung among coal miners was well done, but it failed to drive home who the real culprits are for the rise of this insidious workplace disease: The coal companies that chose to break the law and ignore the respirable dust standards in place over the last 30 years.

            “The fact that younger miners are getting this disease is especially damning to the industry, because it shows that even in the last decade or less, a large number of coal operators chose to put their employees’ lives at risk simply to be able to mine coal faster. That is criminal, and the perpetrators of this crime should be locked up.

            “It takes three things for a mine to be consistently operated in a safe and healthy manner: First, a company that is willing to follow the law; second a government that is willing to enforce the law; and third, a workforce that is empowered to speak up for itself about health and safety issues in the mine. When any one of those three things are missing, miners are at risk. When they are all missing, as was the case in the mines NPR/Frontline cited in its story, miners die.

            “For the National Mining Association to say that it ‘can’t be responsible for what happened in the past’ is outrageous. The industry must be held responsible, because if they had followed the law in the first place there would not have been excessive dust in the mine atmosphere.

            “This report comes at a critical time, as the contributions the companies make to the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund are about to be cut by more than half at the end of the year. This will cause the deficit in that Fund to skyrocket, sticking taxpayers with a bill that the companies should continue to be responsible for.

            “No coal company has gone out of business because it pays an extra 55 cents in contributions on every ton of coal it mines to that Fund. It is clear that the need for this fund will be long-lasting as younger miners are afflicted with Black Lung because their employers chose to not follow the law. Now is not the time to cut back on coal company contributions to this Fund.  

    ​       “This is a problem that is caused by coal companies and should be paid for by those same coal companies, not taxpayers. Congress must act quickly, before the end of the year, to extend the current contribution rates for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund.”