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UPDATE: New coal dust rule focus on better, frequent air sampling

By: Michelle Heron Email
By: Michelle Heron Email
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HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) Update: May 20, 2014-

Coal miners and industry leaders heard first hand Tuesday how a new coal dust rule will change operations inside Eastern Kentucky mines.

It’s one of the biggest rulings in the history of coal mining and one that’s divided those within the industry.

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Joseph Main spoke at the meeting held at Hazard Community and Technical College.

“It’s time to act. We know how to do it, we can do it, and we owe these miners a good job,” Main said.

Main has worked in the coal industry since he was 18 and understands the crisis many companies face today.

“We listened carefully and crafted a very strategic rule that’s aimed at letting businesses continue but puts controls in place for [Black Lung Disease,]” he added.

The new coal dust rule requires more sampling so officials can get an accurate picture of the air quality in and around mines.

“It’s also important to make sure those controls are in place and take place all the time. Not just on those infrequent days,” Main added.

The new standard also requires mine operators to correct excessive dust levels immediately.

The new coal dust standard goes into effect nationwide on August 1, 2014.
Original Story: April 23, 2014-

A monumental day for the coal industry after the Department of Labor makes a final decision regarding coal dust that’s designed to reduce Black Lung Disease.

It’s an issue that’s been talked about for decades, and a disease Appalachian Citizens Law Center’s Deputy Director Wes Addington has seen first-hand.

“You shouldn’t have to give up your health and your life for a career,” Addington said, “this should be a disease of the past.”

More than 700,000 coal miners have died from Black Lung Disease and that statistic has sparked demand for change within the industry.

“This rule goes a long way towards getting them out of the dusty conditions and allowing them to keep the same wages and hours that they’re currently working,” Addington added.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration announced Wednesday the new rule will lower the “overall dust standard from 2.0 to 1.5 milligrams per cubic meter of air and cuts in half the standard from 1.0 to .5 for certain mine entries and miners with pneumoconiosis.”

“This rule change they’re making is really ignoring a lot of science, it’s not really going to correct the problem and worse, it’s a nationwide rule,” Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett said.

Bissett agrees the rule is a step in the right direction toward protecting miners, but isn’t the right approach.

“It doesn’t take into consideration how we can better move miners within the mine to better protect them as well as using things like supply air helmets, which is proven technology that helps. None of this was considered by MSHA,” he added.

The rule also applies to surface miners, which makes some wonder if more regulations could lead to more layoffs.

“What’s the value of a coal miners’ life to his family? What’s the value of not having to struggle to breathe every single day?” Addington said.

But both sides agree only time will tell if the rule will one day eliminate Black Lung.

Click the attached link to read the full ruling.

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