Thursday, May 13, 2010

Ohio turns to black-lung fund for regulatory financing lost with failure of coal-extraction tax

After successful lobbying by coal interests led to the removal of a coal-extraction tax from the last Ohio state budget, Gov. Ted Strickland wants to use $2.28 million from the state black-lung fund to pay for oversight of new coal mines. The idea, suggested by the Ohio Coal Association to Strickland administration officials, was approved as part of an otherwise unrelated coal bill by the House's Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Wednesday, Aaron Marshall of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland reports. The removal of the 8-cents-per-ton extraction tax in 2009 placed a $1.8 million hole in the state's coal-mine regulation and inspection program.

"We would prefer our fee proposal that would put us on a dedicated funding stream, but given the short legislative timeframe, we are fine with a one-time maneuver to cover the next fiscal year," Ohio Department of Natural Resources communications chief Mike Shelton, told Marshall. Shelton said the black-lung fund generates about $8 million a year in interest and in premiums paid by coal companies into the worker's compensation account. A Bureau of Workers Compensation spokeswoman said "there were 339 claims made on the fund in 2009 with an average payment of $130,000 per claim," Marshall writes.

"We may not be very happy about it, but we're not opposing it," Babe Erdos, Ohio political coordinator for the United Mine Workers, told Marshall. "A one-time transfer we're not objecting to -- even though it's kind of a stretch what they are using it for." Nachy Kanfer, who heads the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign in Ohio, was more direct in her disapproval: "It's being held in escrow for black-lung victims. It's not for the purpose of helping coal companies fund their own oversight," she told Marshall. "In the aftermath of the coal mining tragedy in West Virginia, we need more money going for mine safety and health, not less." (Read more)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

nachy kanfer is a dude.