Black lung is an awful, debilitating disease that can't be cured. It can be prevented, though, and in response to an increase in black lung cases
, the Mine Safety and Health Administration is proposing new rules to prevent it. Rep. Andy Barr, Republican of Kentucky, has concerns:
Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Barr of Lexington said many members of Congress have questions about the rules, including whether they would add burden and cost on coal companies that would far outweigh any benefit to miners. If companies cut employment because of regulatory costs, it does nothing to advance the cause of workers' health, Barr said.
"Worker safety is a top priority, but not at the cost of putting that family in a very precarious financial situation," Barr said.
When you add a "but" to "worker safety is top priority," you're saying worker safety is not top priority. In translation, Barr is saying basically "God forbid we should prevent a horrible disease at the cost of anyone's job, and by anyone's job, I mean coal company profits." This is perhaps not by chance:
Rep. Andy Barr, who thinks miners should sacrifice their lungs for a job, has received $350,000 in mining industry campaign contributions.
Barr's top contributors
include Alliance Resource Partners, Arch Coal, Pine Branch Coal Sales, Beech Fork Processing, and more. No wonder he'd like to protect the industry from new regulations
that "would cut the limit on miners' exposure to dust; require miners to wear personal monitors to provide real-time dust readings; and change how companies monitor dust exposure," preventing companies from reducing production, and therefore reducing dust, while they measure. The coal industry will always blame its problems on regulations or President Obama or anything else seeking to prevent it from killing its workers at will. But for all the talk of a "war on coal" from the industry and its Republican water-carriers, the market
is what's hurting the coal industry. It shouldn't be allowed to disable or kill more workers to squeeze the maximum profit out of a bad market.