CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- House Republicans are seeking to extend their measure that blocks the Obama administration from moving forward with a new rule aimed at combating the resurgence of deadly black lung disease, which experts say has reached epidemic proportions in the Appalachian coalfields.
The GOP-controlled House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday released its draft of the 2013 budget bill for the Department of Labor, which includes the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.
If approved, the language would forbid MSHA from using any funds from its budget to finalize its October 2010 proposal to tighten legal coal-dust limits and improve other protections for miners.
"House Republicans' proposal to stop modern protections against black lung disease for our nation's miners is outrageous and should be defeated," said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., and ranking minority member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts said the budget measure "amounts to nothing more than a potential death sentence for thousands of American miners."
"Preventing black lung isn't a matter of overregulation," Roberts said. "It's a matter of life and death."
Carol Raulston, spokeswoman for the National Mining Association, said the industry group "sympathizes" with the GOP's "frustration at MSHA's apparent unwillingness to consider seriously the constructive proposals we have made to address this problem directly and improve miners' health."
Industry officials argue that recent increases in black lung rates are a regional problem and don't require a new nationwide rule. Industry supporters in Congress have claimed that black lung rates have not increased and have blamed miners for not protecting themselves from excess dust.