GOP members on the U.S. House Appropriations committee have inserted language into a bill to block a new Mine Safety and Health Department initiative to reduce occurrences of black lung disease–or coal workers' pneumoconiosis.
NPR's Howard Berkes reported on the new language this morning on NPR's news blog The Two Way:
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) proposes cutting in half the limits on coal miners' exposure to coal dust. The agency's proposed rulemaking also establishes the use of Personal Dust Monitors which measure dust exposure in real time.
The 2013 fiscal year begins Oct. 1. A rider for FY 2012 blocked the rulemaking until the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issues a report on the validity of research that shows black lung disease has doubled in the last decade. The data from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) also shows that diagnoses of the worst stages of the disease have quadrupled since the 1980's in eastern Kentucky, southwestern Virginia and southern West Virginia.
The GAO report is expected to be released sometime in the next month.
NIOSH studies also show that the disease is striking younger miners and progressing more quickly to the most serious stages of black lung.
And Ken Ward of the Charleston Gazette summed it up this way on Coal Tattoo:
That’s right. The MSHA budget being proposed by the House GOP leaders would continue to block — for at least the 2013 budget year — the agency from finalizing landmark rules aimed at trying to end black lung, a deadly disease that’s on the rise again and has reached what experts call epidemic proportions among coal miners in parts of Central Appalachia.
Here's the new language, inserted into appropriations for Fiscal Year 2013 for the Departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services:
“SEC. 118. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to continue the development of or to promulgate, administer, enforce, or otherwise implement the Lowering Miners' Exposure to Coal Mine Dust, Including 20 Continuous Personal Dust Monitors regulation (Regulatory Identification Number 1219-AB64) being developed by the Mine Safety and Health Administration of the Department of Labor.”
A investigation just last week by NPR and the Center for Public Integrity revealed that cases of black lung are on the rise in Appalachia. NPR is seeking comments from lawmakers on the new language, and we'll repost those stories as soon as they're available.