Charleston, W.Va. -- After Wednesday's federal bankruptcy court ruling that allows Patriot Coal to cut health care and retirements benefits for miners and retirees, Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va., asked Congress to pass the Coalfield Accountability and Retired Employee Act to protect those benefits.
Earlier this year, Rahall and Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., introduced the CARE Act in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kathy A. Surratt-States ruled Wednesday that Patriot Coal, which filed for bankruptcy in July 2012, could throw out contracts negotiated with the United Mine Workers of America.
The UMWA argued Patriot was created in 2007 to hire workers at union mines previously run by Peabody Energy and Arch Coal. Patriot also assumed health care costs for union miners who had already retired from those companies.
Rahall said, "Our coal miners earned, through sweat and sacrifice, the retirement and health care benefits they were promised. That is why yesterday's court ruling, which puts those benefits at risk for tens of thousands of Appalachian mining families, is so disappointing."
Rahall said it is "imperative" that Congress pass the CARE Act, which he said would:
Make any retirees who lose benefits after the bankruptcy of their companies eligible for the 1992 Benefit Plan, which was established under the Coal Act to provide health benefits to retired and disabled miners and their families.
Amend the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 to transfer excess money in the Abandoned Mine Land fund to the UMWA 1974 Pension Plan, in order to prevent it from becoming insolvent.