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Manchin, Brown, Casey, Fetterman, Warner, Kaine Statement on DOL Final Rule to Reduce Silica Dust Exposure

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), John Fetterman (D-PA), Mark Warner (D-VA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) released the following statement on the Department of Labor (DOL) Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) finalizing its proposal to amend current federal standards to better protect America’s miners from health hazards related to exposure to respirable crystalline silica, or silica dust. Warner and Kaine previously urged the Biden Administration to issue new silica standards – a push that helped contribute toward the rule.

“We applaud the Mine Safety and Health Administration for finalizing its rule to better protect our nation’s coal miners from exposure to silica dust. This rule will play an essential role in safeguarding miners from cancers, silicosis and black lung disease, especially in Appalachia where black lung cases have been rapidly increasing in recent years. For generations, our brave coal miners have risked their lives to power our nation to greatness, and we will continue working together in the Senate to advance commonsense rules like this one to protect the health and welfare of these heroes,” the senators said.

“We're grateful for the Agency's initiative in implementing a rule to tackle the increasing incidence of silica-related lung diseases among both coal and metal non-metal miners. The resurgence of these diseases, particularly affecting younger miners in their 30s and 40s, underscores the urgency of this issue. This measure is vital for safeguarding miners' well-being not only in the short term but throughout their careers. The UMWA’s focus now shifts to ensuring mining companies are held accountable,” said United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil E. Roberts.

Warner and Kaine have long worked to support miners, miner retirees, and their families. The Fiscal Year 2024 government funding bill included $12.2 million in federal funding for Black Lung Clinics. The Inflation Reduction Act, which Warner and Kaine voted to pass, included a permanent extension of the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund’s excise tax at a higher rate, providing certainty for miners, miner retirees, and their families who rely on the fund to access benefits. This followed Warner and Kaine’s successful efforts to ensure that miners receive the pensions and health care they earned.

Last November, Warner and Kaine introduced legislation to strengthen the Black Lung Benefits Program. Last July, Warner and Kaine introduced the Relief for Survivors of Miners Act, which would ease restrictions to make it easier for miners’ survivors to successfully claim benefits. In 2023, Kaine invited United Mine Workers of America leader James Gibbs, a third-generation coal miner from Dickenson County, to attend the State of the Union as his guest to highlight the important contributions of miners and the need to support them.