Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, Leader McCarthy, and Leader Pelosi:
This letter is a call from your constituents and our neighbors across the region urging you to show leadership on behalf of coal miners and their communities — your communities — who have sacrificed their lives to coal mining.
The Alliance for Appalachia is made up of 15 grassroots, nonprofit organizations who advocate for social and environmental justice in our region. We’re building communities that are self-determining and regenerative. Working for social justice in the mountains means asserting our right to clean water and a healthy ecosystem, alongside our right to a safe and healthy work environment.
Before the year ends, we urge you to:
- Secure funding for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund including, at a minimum, a 10 year tax extension at its current rate
- Pass the RECLAIM Act (HR 1731), and
- Protect miners’ pensions before the end of 2018
A 10 year extension of the current black lung tax rate is a bare minimum approach. The current $0.55 per ton of surface coal and $1.10 per ton of underground coal is a rate been law for 32 years without adjustments to account for inflation or increased medical costs.
We are at a time when more miners and their families are suffering from blank lung, an incurable yet preventable disease. At the same time, more coal operators are filing bankruptcy, thus pushing their responsibilities to miners onto the trust fund. Without an extension of the tax at current rates, the Government Accountability Office makes clear that the trust fund that provides medical benefits to miners won’t be able to cover its beneficiary payments and administrative costs starting in Fiscal Year 2020.
“A just transition requires creativity, commitment, and leadership. Displaced workers deserve access to health care, incomeJoanne Hill member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and the Alliance for Appalachia.
anda secure retirement.”
The National Mining Association has been misleading members of Congress with millions of dollars of lobbying regarding both the rate of black lung in their former employees and the status of the trust fund. Will you stand for the rights and health of miners and their families?
In 2017, 75% of federal black lung benefits were paid out of the Trust Fund, meaning that for 75% of approved claims, coal companies shirked their direct responsibilities onto the trust fund, for example by filing bankruptcy or otherwise denying responsibility for sick and dying coal miners instead of paying their taxes.
“If the individual taxpayer is to be held to their financial obligations by the law, then the law must also apply to the mining companies [Crystal Cole-Willcuts, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards.
. ..] We will accept no less than what is expected of us.”
Looking beyond the urgent deadline that looms in a few short days, we look forward to working with you next year to pass legislation that invests in a brighter future for coal communities, such as the RECLAIM Act (HR 1731). RECLAIM is a bipartisan bill that accelerates the cleanup of dangerous and polluting abandoned mine lands while creating thousands of jobs and longer-term community and economic development opportunities.
The Alliance for Appalachia