CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Obama administration is continuing to delay action on several key mine safety and health rules, including one aimed at ending deadly black lung disease, according to a new regulatory agenda made public this week.
Officials announced the moves in the Department of Labor's semiannual regulatory agenda, which was published online Wednesday.
The department's Mine Safety and Health Administration said in its portion of the agenda that a rule aimed at lowering exposure to coal dust that causes black lung won't be finalized until at least September.
MSHA's previously listed target date for the final rule was June.
Agency officials did not state a reason for the delay, and a department spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
The delay comes as researchers continue to warn of a "sense of urgency" to take action because of a resurgence in black lung, especially in Appalachia and among younger miners, who have worked under current dust limits that were supposed to protect them from the disease.
Black lung, or coal workers' pneumoconiosis, is an irreversible and potentially deadly disease caused by exposure to coal dust. Between 1996 and 2005, nearly 10,000 coal miners nationwide died of black lung, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
West Virginia recorded the second-most black lung deaths of any state, with more than 1,800 during that period, according to NIOSH. That compares to 87 miners killed in on-the-job accidents during that same period, according to federal data.
A year ago, in July 2012, a joint investigation by National Public Radio and The Center for Public Integrity, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit investigative journalism organization, reported on the resurgence of black lung and, with additional reporting by The Charleston Gazette, documented widespread cheating by mining companies on dust samples and inaction by federal regulators over the past quarter-century to address the problem.