Monday, December 07, 2009

Labor Dept. targets black-lung disease but no longer aims to lower limit on coal dust in mines

The Obama administration's strategy to eliminate black-lung disease apparently will not include a lower limit on the amount of coal dust in underground mines, Ken Ward Jr. of The Charleston Gazette reports on his Coal Tattoo blog. Ward notes that the Department of Labor said in May that it planned to propose a regulation on "Occupational Exposure to Coal Mine Dust (Lowering Exposure Limit), but an announcement today was titled "Occupational Exposure to Coal Mine Dust (Lowering Exposure)."

"The word 'limit' is gone. And that’s significant," Ward writes. "Six months ago, [Labor Secretary Hilda] Solis told miners, the coal industry and the public that her agency was going to lower the limit. Now, lowering the limit is just one of several options that are being considered." Ward's post concludes with a video of Mine Safety and Health Administration boss Joe Main "explaining why he believes MSHA may be able to end black lung without reducing the legal exposure limit."

UPDATE, Dec. 8: Ward and others question Main online but are unable to get an answer to questions like this one: "Is MSHA also committed to lowering the permissible exposure limit for coal dust?" Read Ward's report on the chat here.

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