Ohio Valley Resource reports on the recent release of a GAO report that shows the effects of coal bankruptcies on the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund.

ACLC’s Coordinator of Policy and Organizing, Rebecca Shelton, weighed in on coal company liabilities and how they relate to the trust fund. The Black Lung Disability Trust Fund has suffered from coal companies externalizing their liabilities and costs onto local communities and taxpayers:

The Black Lung Disability Trust Fund provides monthly benefits and health care coverage for disabled miners whose own employer cannot cover the cost. Coal companies pay into the fund via a per-ton tax on coal. A coal company’s liability to the trust fund is the total cost of care for the lifetime of each miner disabled by black lung due to work in the company’s mine. If a company doesn’t have enough insurance or hasn’t put up enough collateral to cover those liabilities when it goes bankrupt, the cost of care falls on the trust fund. 

Of the eight companies that declared bankruptcy between 2014 and 2016, three companies, Alpha Natural Resources, James River Coal, and Patriot Coal transferred $865 million in liability onto the fund. Alpha Natural Resources alone transferred $494 million in benefit liability onto the fund, making it the largest contributor to the problem. 

“The GAO’s report details a decades-long failure by the Department of Labor to fulfill its duty to protect the solvency of Black Lung Disability Trust Fund,” said Rep. Bobby Scott, a Democrat of Virginia. Scott chairs the House Committee on Education and Labor, which conducted a hearing on the matter Wednesday. “The Department’s lax oversight allowed coal mine executives to shift the cost of paying black lung benefits onto the shoulders of the taxpayers to the tune of nearly a billion dollars, while those same coal executives rewarded themselves with tens of millions of dollars in salaries and bonuses.”

Read the full article here.