In a powerful new editorial, the Lexington Herald-Leader demands answers for sick coal miners and their families about whether funding for the Black Lung Disability Fund will be slashed at the end of the year. As the editorial explains, this proposed cut to the Trust Fund comes despite overwhelming evidence that black lung disease is deadlier than ever before.
Unless Congress acts, a tax on coal production that pays medical and other costs for black lung victims and their dependents will be slashed at the end of this month.
The industry opposes renewing the tax at its current rate. If the industry wins, the Black Lung Disability Fund would lose 55 percent of its funding. The trust fund, already $5.8 billion in debt, would have to borrow even more from the Treasury to meet its obligations.
In other words, taxpayers would assume the coal industry’s responsibility to miners who contracted a fatal respiratory disease in workplaces where dust control was too often inadequate, if not an outright fraud.
In a cruel paradox, black lung in its most severe form is rising among miners as the coal industry declines in Central Appalachia.