DOL Wins Black Lung Ruling

Aug. 14, 2001
A district court judge last week upheld recently promulgated regulations intended to streamline the processing of claims by miners suffering from black lung disease.

In a lengthy ruling issued Friday, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia upheld the Department of Labor''s (DOL) recently promulgated regulations intended to streamline the processing of claims by miners suffering from black lung disease.

"We are very pleased the court upheld the revised regulations, whether they originated in this administration or previous administrations," said Labor Secretary Elaine Chao. "This ruling moves us in the direction of our goal of improving the lives of miners suffering from this horrific disease."

New rules governing the administration of the black lung program went into effect on Jan. 19, 2001.

The National Mining Association challenged the regulations in U.S. District Court.

NMA says DOL went too far in issuing the rules. Bob Jackson, NMA vice president of human resources, said the industry filed the suit because it believes the rules are bad public policy.

"We don''t feel that the department has the authority to apply this regulation retroactively," said Jackson.

NMA also maintained that DOL rejected extensive medical and scientific evidence submitted by medical experts which reveal that incidents of black lung disease have been declining.

The industry group contends the regulations would have a "profound and potential devastating" economic effect on mine operators both large and small.

The United Mineworkers of America (UMWA) intervened in the lawsuit to defend the regulations along with DOL.

"We are extremely gratified by the judge''s decision to uphold the critical new rules governing the process by which black lung victims can claim their federal disability benefits," said UMWA International President Cecil Roberts. "Under this decision, miners can now take advantage of the new rules without worrying that operators will be able to challenge the fundamental legality of the various regulations in individual claim''s cases."

Black lung is a commonly used term for pneumoconiosis, a lung disease resulting from excessive exposure to respirable coal mine dust. In severe cases, black lung can be disabling and fatal.

DOL''s portion of the Federal Black Lung Program provides more than $439 million annually in monetary and medical benefits to former coal mine workers who are determined to be totally disabled by the crippling respiratory condition. Prompt claims decisions, timely benefit payments and a high level of program service are the program''s basic goals, according to DOL.

by Virginia Foran

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EHS Today Staff

EHS Today's editorial staff includes:

Dave Blanchard, Editor-in-Chief: During his career Dave has led the editorial management of many of Endeavor Business Media's best-known brands, including IndustryWeekEHS Today, Material Handling & LogisticsLogistics Today, Supply Chain Technology News, and Business Finance. In addition, he serves as senior content director of the annual Safety Leadership Conference. With over 30 years of B2B media experience, Dave literally wrote the book on supply chain management, Supply Chain Management Best Practices (John Wiley & Sons, 2021), which has been translated into several languages and is currently in its third edition. He is a frequent speaker and moderator at major trade shows and conferences, and has won numerous awards for writing and editing. He is a voting member of the jury of the Logistics Hall of Fame, and is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

Adrienne Selko, Senior Editor: In addition to her roles with EHS Today and the Safety Leadership Conference, Adrienne is also a senior editor at IndustryWeek and has written about many topics, with her current focus on workforce development strategies. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics. Previously she was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck?, which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list.

Nicole Stempak, Managing Editor:  Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

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