Read the report here.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Obama administration used appropriate scientific studies and analysis when it proposed to toughen the limits on coal dust to fight a resurgence of deadly black lung disease, a federal government audit made public Friday concluded.
A congressionally mandated review by the U.S. Government Accountability Office supported the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration proposal, dismissing coal industry complaints that challenged MSHA's evidence and methodology.
In a 24-page report, the GAO said key scientific studies support MSHA's conclusion that tightening the dust limit would reduce miners' risk of getting black lung. The GAO review said research used by MSHA included "reasonable steps" to minimize the impact of any limitations in their data.
"Opponents of the proposed rule attacked the science, but the study they called for shows the science to be sound: The proposed rule would reduce coal miners' risk of developing black lung," said Rep. George Miller of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said the report "confirms how critical MSHA's new rules will be in protecting miners' health."
Completion of the GAO report frees MSHA to finalize the rule, but agency officials on Friday offered no timeline for when they would do so.
"We are pleased that the GAO has completed its study, and its conclusions validate the work MSHA has pursued to update a standard that will ultimately save lives in the mining industry," said MSHA chief Joe Main. "Black lung disease devastates miners, families, and communities, and MSHA is committed to addressing the underlying causes of that dreaded illness."
The United Mine Workers union declined comment on the GAO findings. UMW officials have generally supported the MSHA proposal, but are upset that it would still allow most dust-sampling to be done by mine operators.
Black lung, or coal workers' pneumoconiosis, is an irreversible and potentially deadly disease caused by exposure to coal dust.
In 1969, Congress made eliminating black lung a national goal, with a law that required mine operators to take steps to limit exposure. The law greatly reduced black lung among the nation's coal miners.