Provision to block silica standard included in new appropriations bill

June 26, 2024

Dan Radmacher, Media Specialist, (540) 798-6683,

The House Appropriations Committee has included a provision in the annual appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education that would block funding for the recently finalized rule to protect miners from silica dust — a significant driver of the resurgence of black lung disease in Central Appalachia. The rule cuts the amount of silica dust a miner can be exposed to during an eight-hour shift from 100 micrograms per cubic meter to 50 — matching the exposure limit for workers in other industries.

Some advocates for miners with black lung and their families have several concerns about the rule, but have argued it should be strengthened to better protect miners, not repealed. Blocking the rule’s implementation would put miners at far greater risk for developing severe black lung disease, which is incurable and fatal.

The House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services and Related Agencies Subcommittee will hold a markup meeting tomorrow, June 27, at 8 a.m.

Statement from Quenton King, Federal Legislative Specialist, Appalachian Voices:
“For the second time in less than a year some members of Congress are trying to use the Appropriations process to harm coal miners. Preventing MSHA from enforcing this rule that miners have waited decades for would have disastrous consequences. Congress should let the Mine Safety and Health Administration do its job and stop playing politics with miners’ lives.”

Statement from Willie Dodson, Central Appalachian Field Coordinator, Appalachian Voices:
“Black lung kills about 1,000 miners every single year and silica is the prime culprit. After decades of grassroots action by miners and their supporters, MSHA is finally taking steps to address this epidemic. But right on cue, politicians want to get in the way. They are putting industry profits over miners’ lives. It’s a travesty.”

Statement from Brendan Muckian-Bates, Policy & Advocacy Associate, Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center:
“The new silica dust rule is not perfect, but it is an important step forward to protect the health and safety of hard-working miners. This dangerous provision, however, is a dramatic leap backwards that would put lives at risk and allow the black lung epidemic to continue to spread in spite of decades of advocacy to tackle this crisis. We need every tool possible to protect the health of miners, and we urge every member of Congress — especially House Republicans — with coal miners and those with black lung as constituents to work with their colleagues in deleting this section from the final bill.”

Statement from Vonda Robinson, Vice President, National Black Lung Association:
“Miners with black lung and their families have been fighting for protections from deadly silica dust for years. We know that those in the mines are getting sicker faster than ever because of silica dust, and we’re grateful MSHA finally took action to help. It’s very disheartening to see a handful of Washington politicians try and undo all this hard work on a whim. If this policy becomes law, it will put the lives of countless miners at risk. Mining families deserve better, and we urge Congress to throw out this dangerous policy and get to work helping miners, not making their lives much harder.”