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Clean Coal, Black Lungs

If we were to manage to remove every milligram of CO2 from coal plant emissions, coal would still be one of the most deadly substances on earth. In 1969, Congress passed the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act, which set coal-dust standards for mines designed to reduce the incidence of black lung disease in U.S. mines. Since that time, Republican adminstrations have fought to get government out of business and reduce the regulatory burden on industry. Regulators reduced inspections and monitoring, mines reduced their workforces, increased the length of work shifts, introduced machinery that creates more dust and increased production. Workers are cheap.

graphic from Wall Street Journal

Today, 9% of American miners with more than 25 years in the mines test positive for black lung disease. That number is up 5% from the 1990s. Incidence of the disease has been increasing for decades. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health,

Black lung accounts for more deaths than do mine accidents, including explosions and cave-ins. More than 10,000 miners have died from the disease during the past decade, compared with fewer than 400 from mine accidents.

The federal government has paid out more than $44 billion in compensation for miners totally disabled by black lung since 1970, according to the Labor Department’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs.

No matter how many billions of dollars the federal government pumps into cleaning up the image of Big Coal and chasing the fantasy of CCS, coal is an environmental nightmare and a vicious killer.

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Remembering the Kingston, Tenn., coal-ash disaster

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