Earlier this year, Rockefeller (D-W.V.) introduced a bill designed to bolster protections for coal miners, who are routinely exposed to harmful dust. But the lawmaker, who is not seeking reelection next year, is calling upon the administration to instead finish regulations enacting new exposure limits.
“We have to rid ourselves of the notion that coal miners, who work long hours doing back-breaking jobs to support their families, are destined to get sick,” Rockefeller said in a statement issued this week “No one has to get Black Lung Disease. It is not inevitable. And it is well past time we relegate this terrible disease to the archives of history.”
The regulations would cut in half a set of exposure limits for dust that were enacted via the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969. An advisory committee convened by the Department of Labor in the mid-1990s concluded that those limits were insufficient and recommended the lower levels.
After years of public hearings and an extended public comment period, the Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration submitted the final regulations to the White House for review late last month, Office of Management and Budget records show.
The movement came on the heels of a letter Rockefeller sent to President Obama on Aug. 6, urging action be taken.
“Coal workers’ pneumoconioisis has long been a scourge of the coalfields of Appalachia,” he wrote. “It has condemned those who suffered from it to years of painful and labored efforts just to be able to breathe properly.”