Trey Pollard – firstname.lastname@example.org – (202) 904-9187
Chelsea Barnes – email@example.com – (614) 205-6424
APPALACHIA – Tonight, Senate Democrats released the full text of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. This legislation includes a permanent extension of the Black Lung Excise Tax – an unprecedented investment in the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund that goes above and beyond the 10-year extension fought for by advocates since a full extension of the excise tax expired at the end of 2021.
The Black Lung Excise Tax is the single source of revenue for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund (BLDTF) that provides health insurance and a living stipend for miners with black lung and their families. 4,423 West Virginia miners and their families are currently receiving federal black lung compensation. The Black Lung Disability Trust Fund provided $149 million in black lung compensation to West Virginia miners in 2021 while supporting miners and their families in 46 other states as well.
Since the expiration of the extension of the Black Lung Excise Tax on December 31, 2021, the Black Lung Association and other advocates for miners with black lung have fought for a long-term extension. The National Black Lung Association and 67 other organizations sent a letter to congressional leadership urging immediate action to provide a long-term extension of the Black Lung Excise Tax while advocates launched the “We’re Counting on You, Joe” campaign in May to urge Senator Manchin to fight for progress on the issue.
Advocates released the following statements in response:
“We told Senator Manchin we were counting on him to protect our black lung benefits, and today he proved that he was listening. The Black Lung Association is grateful for Senator Manchin’s work to fight for miners and our families in West Virginia and across coal country. This permanent extension of the excise tax on coal gives us a level of security we’ve never had before. We also want to thank Senator Manchin for helping coal mining states find ways to develop new, good paying jobs. We urge every Senator and Representative in West Virginia and across the nation to support this bill. Let’s get this done.” – Gary Hairston, President, National Black Lung Association (Fayette County, WV)
“Miners and families impacted by black lung need and deserve the stability of a long term extension of the excise tax so they can address other urgent issues – and this permanent extension would make sure they don’t ever have to worry about another fight with Congress on this issue again. We are proud to thank Senator Manchin and Leader Schumer for fighting to include this vitally important policy in this legislation. It is time for Congress to pass this extension to honor the miners and their families who sacrificed so much to power our country for generations.” – Rebecca Shelton, Director of Policy and Organizing, Appalachian Citizens Law Center
“This is a huge victory for every miner and mining family that is worried about how to pay for their bills and medication in light of the uncertainty around the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund. Thanks to the leadership of Senator Manchin and Leader Schumer, these families will have the stability they deserve. Congress shouldn’t waste another moment in passing this extension into law.” – Chelsea Barnes, Legislative Director, Appalachian Voices
Coal miners who are disabled from black lung, as well their surviving dependents, are entitled by law to modest living and medical benefits. The Black Lung Disability Trust Fund pays for these benefits in cases where the miners’ employer has gone bankrupt or where no coal company can be identified as responsible for the miner’s disease.
The trust fund is more important now than ever because a wave of bankruptcies in the coal industry has created increased pressure on the program. It is supported by a small excise tax paid by companies per ton of coal sold domestically, at a rate that was unchanged for more than three decades: $0.55/ ton of surface mined coal, and $1.10/ ton of coal mined underground.
In 2018, the excise tax was reduced and collected at less than 50% of its historic rate for the entirety of 2019, pushing the BLDTF deeper into debt. In 2019 and 2020, the higher, historic rate of the excise tax was reinstated through one-year tax extender bills, but the rate was cut in half again at the end of last year because Congress failed to act. The proposed extension provides longer-term security for the fund, and for the miners who depend on it compared to short-term, one-year extensions.