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Trump Reconsiders Miner Protections    12/16 10:58

   CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- President Donald Trump's mining regulators are 
reconsidering rules meant to protect underground miners from breathing coal and 
rock dust -- the cause of black lung -- and diesel exhaust, which can cause 
cancer. An advocate for coal miners said Friday that this sends a "very bad 
signal."

   The Mine Safety and Health Administration has asked for public comments on 
whether standards "could be improved or made more effective or less burdensome 
by accommodating advances in technology, innovative techniques, or less costly 
methods."

   Some "requirements that could be streamlined or replaced in frequency" 
involve coal and rock dust . Others address diesel exhaust , which can have 
health impacts ranging from headaches and nausea to respiratory disease and 
cancer.

   "Because of the carcinogenic health risk to miners from exposure to diesel 
exhaust, MSHA is requesting information on approaches that would improve 
control of diesel particulate matter and diesel exhaust," the agency said.

   The Trump administration has said many federal regulations, including 
pollution restrictions, have depressed the coal industry and other sectors of 
the economy.

   "President Trump made clear the progress his Administration is making in 
bringing common sense to regulations that hold back job creation and 
prosperity," Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta said Thursday in releasing his 
agency's regulatory and deregulatory agenda. "The Department of Labor will 
continue to protect American workers' interests while limiting the burdens of 
over-regulation."

   The notices on coal dust and underground diesel exhaust had few details. 
Both were described as "pre-rule stage."

   MSHA in 2014 had promised to conduct a retrospective study of the new dust 
rule, spokeswoman Amy Louviere said Friday. The current notice seeks comments 
on that and also on whether existing standards and regulations could be made 
more effective or less burdensome, she said.

   "I think it's a very bad signal for coal miners that MSHA is wanting to 
revisit the issue of coal dust and rock dust as well as diesel exhaust," said 
attorney Tony Oppegard, who represents miners in safety cases. "I don't think 
the Trump administration has coal miners' best interests at heart. They're 
aligned with coal mine operators as opposed to miners, and the only reasons 
they would want to reopen these rules or revisit these rules are to weaken 
them."

   The Obama administration, through a lengthy rulemaking process, lowered the 
allowable limit for miners' dust exposure three years ago, Oppegard said. The 
industry and its mine operators opposed that for years, he said.

   At the National Mining Association, which represents mine operators, 
spokesman Luke Popovich said Friday they believe a review of the dust-exposure 
rule "might shed valuable information on ... ways it might be improved to 
provide further protection for miners while eliminating unnecessary 
implementation requirements for operators."

   David Zatezalo, a retired West Virginia coal mining executive chosen by 
Trump to head MSHA, said at his November confirmation hearing that the U.S. 
industry is safer and healthier than ever before. He said progress is needed, 
including technology for real-time monitoring of silica dust blamed for a 
virulent variation of the black lung disease that has afflicted even some 
younger coal miners.


(KA)

 
 
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