US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions

Harkin, Casey Praise Implementation of New Protections for Coal Miners to Prevent Black Lung Disease

Friday, August 01, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Chairman of the Committee’s Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety, today released the following statement applauding the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) implementation of new protections to protect the health and safety of coal miners and prevent black lung disease.

“I applaud the Department of Labor for taking action to protect our nation’s hardworking coal miners from developing black lung disease.  Because there is no cure for black lung, it is imperative that we protect miners from developing the disease in the first place,” Chairman Harkin said. “Protecting the health and safety of our nation’s miners has always been important to me because of my father, who struggled with his health from years of working as a miner in clouds of coal dust.

“With these new protections, miners will no longer have to go to work living in fear that they will one day get sick and suffer from black lung disease. I am terribly disappointed that some coal companies have already filed lawsuits trying to take away these lifesaving protections for the miners they employ. Profits should never come before the health and safety of miners.

“I commend Secretary Tom Perez and Assistant Secretary Joe Main for the work they do every day to protect the health and safety of miners.  With their leadership and these new protections in place, it is my hope that we can once and for all end this horrible disease that has already taken too many lives and devastated too many families.”

“The implementation of this new black lung rule is an important moment for the health and safety of miners in Pennsylvania and across the country,” Senator Casey said. “Now, miners will be exposed to less coal dust that leads to black lung disease.  No worker should  have to sacrifice their health and safety on the job to provide for their family. While this rule is a great step in reducing the number of miners exposed to coal dust and preventing new cases of black lung disease,  we cannot forget about our commitment to those miners and their families’ who have lost loved ones or are struggling with the disease today."

Harkin has long been a champion for stronger safety standards and protections for coal miners. As a cosponsor of the Robert C. Byrd Mine and Workplace Safety and Health Act of 2013, Harkin has called for stronger mine safety and health reforms to help save lives and reduce the number of accidents at coal mines.

As Chair of the HELP Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety, Casey recently convened a hearing to explore the legal and medical challenges faced by coal miners suffering from black lung disease when they file claims for benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act. Senator Casey is also a cosponsor of the Robert C. Byrd Mine and Workplace Safety and Health Act of 2013.

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