This week, coal miners and industry representatives appeared at Environmental Protection Agency hearings held in four states to denounce the agency’s proposed regulations on carbon emissions. “Coal mining is a family business,” a West Virginia miner testified at Friday’s hearing in Pennsylvania. “It will do more harm than good. It will also change the economy in a damaging way.” But miners aren’t universally opposed to federal regulations. Just two days earlier, a retired Kentucky miner suffering from black lung disease appeared at an EPA hearing in Colorado and, in opposition to industry representatives, called for more government oversight. “We’re dying, literally dying for you to help us,” Stanley Sturgill said.
New federal rules in effect Friday mark the first time in 45 years that federal officials have updated labor rules to prevent black lung disease, which is caused by inhaling toxic coal dust and silica in mines. By the time the rules are fully in effect in 2016, workers should be exposed to 25 percent less coal dust, saving lives. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration can now give citations to companies immediately when a single sampling shows excessive dust levels. Companies also must sample throughout workers’ 10- to twelve-hour shifts, take samples in more locations in the mine, and provide more medical screenings.