The Alliance for Appalachia fights for the protection of our mountains and our miners. We work towards a future that ensures a good quality of life for all people in our communities.
For years coal companies have pushed their costs onto people living near their operations and bailed on promises to provide healthcare to coal miners struggling with black lung. Even though this disease is completely preventable by limiting coal mine dust exposure, recent studies show the highest rate of complicated black lung disease ever reported. The rate of coal miners lung disease or “black lung” has doubled in less than a decade across Appalachia. Our region and our communities are in a state of emergency under this industrial epidemic.
What’s more, just last week the Government Accountability Office released a report that examines the financial stability of the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which provides benefits to miners and their families when no coal operator can be held accountable and/or the operator restructured through bankruptcy to bail out of these responsibilities. The report found that if Congress lets the tax rates drop, the debt of the Fund will skyrocket to over $15 billion in 30 years, putting the benefits of miners in jeopardy just when they need it most.
“If the individual taxpayer is to be held to their financial obligations by law, then the law must also apply to the mining companies that made billions of dollars in profits off the physical well-being and safety of coal miners and the well-being of the Earth. No one can be above the law. If this is the case then there is no trust, no accountability, no community, and no societal foundation. The mining companies grift and exploitation of coal miners and the Earth must end. We will accept no less than what is expected of us.” – Crystal Cole-Willcuts, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards
We know from history that if our people don’t stand up for our neighbors, no one will. Today we are urging you to tell Congress: Hold the coal industry accountable to their debts and invest in the futures of our communities. Ask your representatives to increase the tax by 25% or at least extend it at the current rates.
With a proposal from KY Congressman Hal Rogers, Congress could support our communities with a win-win solution. Rogers has proposed pairing legislation that protects the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund with the RECLAIM Act (HR 1731), a bill that accelerates the cleanup of abandoned mine lands while creating jobs and economic development opportunities. These initiatives rely on separate, non-competing federal trust funds; the revenue generated for the black lung fund could be used to satisfy congressional budget rules and “offset” the disbursement of funds under RECLAIM. Each Fund remains exclusively for its intended purpose.
Congress must ensure that coal companies- not taxpayers- pay their debts to provide black lung compensation to miners and their families, and to the lands they’ve destroyed through extreme mining practices. Coal operators have become rich by ignoring environmental regulations, repressing labor rights (like the right to a safe, healthy work environment), and extracting resources like land and wealth from the places and people that depend on them most.
For mountains and miners,
The Alliance for Appalachia
*If you would like to share your thoughts, we encourage you to write a letter to the editor or an opinion piece for your local paper. SAMS member Taysha DeVaughan submitted this one to the Coalfield Progress in Norton, VA: letter to the editor