“Advocates including regional black lung associations and the Appalachian Citizens Law Center petitioned MSHA in 2021 to change the silica standard, saying that in ten years of federal inaction, the black lung epidemic has only gotten worse.
Wes Addington, an attorney who runs the black lung legal clinic at ACLC, says even if a new standard were approved, it could fall short.
‘Just because they develop a rule doesn’t mean it’s going to be sufficient enough to protect future generations of miners from the same fate,’ Addington said.
Addington says the new standard could still fail to match OSHA’s, or it might not be paired with increased oversight and improved monitoring. And if the rule is going to work, MSHA needs to look for better ways to monitor silica all the time, not just during inspections, he said.
Addington points out that over the years, MSHA has successfully reduced mining accident deaths, proving that action is possible.
‘The risk of immediate mining deaths in coal mines has vastly improved from where it was 100 years ago, or even 50 years ago,’ Addington said. ‘But, the long term exposure to deadly dust has essentially been a failure, especially in the past quarter century.’
But Addington says any change in the standard is better than none.”
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