U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) released the following statement after a series of reports detailed an increase in black lung disease among miners:
After more than 40 years of working to reduce black lung among America's miners, it is deeply troubling the number of those afflicted by this deadly disease is rising. Increased coal demand and technological improvements in the mining industry are not acceptable excuses. Mine operators must abide by coal dust standards and enforcement officials must hold bad actors accountable when they don't.
At the Upper Big Branch Mine, we learned Massey flouted coal dust standards while inspectors abandoned routine enforcement procedures. In one instance, a citation was issued for overexposure to coal dust, yet Massey was given more than four weeks to abate the hazard despite district policy allowing seven days. During a committee hearing on the 2010 tragedy, Secretary Main cited company abuse and a failure by MSHA to keep up with the system. Neither approach to safety is in the best interests of miners.
Attempts to strengthen protections against black lung during previous administrations proved unsuccessful. Representatives from both industry and labor raised concerns and progress was stymied. Eliminating the threat of black lung is a difficult but critical challenge. I urge Secretary Main to bring together all interested parties in a renewed effort to find common ground that will improve the health of miners and reduce the risk of this deadly disease.