As part of their Appalachia’s New Day campaign that highlights important projects across the region, MACED published an article last week about the black lung epidemic in Central Appalachia.

“The Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center (ACLC), based in Letcher County, Kentucky, works with other attorneys and advocates to trade knowledge of the black lung benefits system. They also manage the black lung blog, Devil in the Dust, which discusses the policies, laws and medical literature surrounding the disease.

ACLC, along with the National Black Lung Association and others, advocates for changes in legislation and regulations to improve the Black Lung benefits program. In addition, they have worked for years to advocate for regulations that reduce the allowable level of dust in mines in an effort to eliminate Black Lung. These efforts paid off in May 2019, when MSHA reduced the nationwide coal mine dust standard for the first time since 1972.

Despite these reforms, the industry remains highly influential. In January 2019, the tax rate coal companies pay to support the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund was cut in half (a company used to pay $1.10 per ton of underground mined coal; now they pay only $0.50 per ton).

With a fund that is already nearly $4 billion in debt, and with cash trickling into the fund at less than half its usual rate, federal budget officials estimate that by the middle of 2020 there won’t be enough money to fully cover the fund’s benefit payments.”

Read the full text here.