Lawmakers say new federal rule will protect coal miners


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

Area lawmakers are applauding a federal rule that will help to better protect coal miners from black lung disease.

The Department of Labor Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has finalized its proposal to amend current federal standards related to exposure to respirable crystalline silica, or silica dust, according to U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, D-Va., and U.S. Senator Mark Warner, D-Va.

Manchin, Kaine and Warner Tuesday joined U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa. and U.S. Senator John Fetterman, D-Pa., in applauding the decision.

"We applaud the Mine Safety and Health Administration for finalizing its rule to better protect our nation's coal miners from exposure to silica dust," the six Democrats said Tuesday in a combined statement. "This rule will play an essential role in safeguarding miners from cancers, silicosis and black lung disease, especially in Appalachia where black lung cases have been rapidly increasing in recent years. For generations, our brave coal miners have risked their lives to power our nation to greatness, and we will continue working together in the Senate to advance commonsense rules like this one to protect the health and welfare of these heroes."

"We're grateful for the agency's initiative in implementing a rule to tackle the increasing incidence of silica-related lung diseases among both coal and metal non-metal miners," United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil E. Roberts added in a statement. "The resurgence of these diseases, particularly affecting younger miners in their 30s and 40s, underscores the urgency of this issue. This measure is vital for safeguarding miners' well-being not only in the short term but throughout their careers. The UMWA's focus now shifts to ensuring mining companies are held accountable."

Black lung is caused and exacerbated by long-term inhalation of coal and silica dust.

The increase in diagnoses of black lung disease over time is expected to worsen without action, according to the lawmakers.

They point to data from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health that indicates that the prevalence of black lung disease in the Appalachian coalfields is worse than previously thought and impacting more young coal miners than before.

The six Democrats have been calling for the swift implementation of the new rule for several months now.

Although coal mining is now frowned upon by many Washington lawmakers, the abundant fossil fuel is still actively mined in a number of states, including West Virginia, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

— Contact Charles Owens at

— Contact Charles Owens at Follow him @BDTOwens