Five Democrat Senators Propose Federal Legislation to Extend Black Lung Tax

Five Democrat Senators who represent Appalachian coal states have proposed legislation to extend the tax that funds benefits for coal miners who suffer from black lung disease.

The Black Lung Disability Trust Fund provides medical care and a stipend for disabled miners and their families if their former employers have gone out of business. An excise tax on coal production funds the program, which is set to expire on December 31, 2021. A bill introduced by West Virginia Senator; Joe Manchin would extend that tax until 2031.

Other Democrat Senators signing onto support the bill include Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner of Virginia and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.

The tax rate fell to 50 cents per ton of coal for underground mines and 25 cents per ton for surface mines in 2018. Congress later restored the rates to $1.10 and 55 cents per ton respectively. The Government Accountability Office (GAO), a nonpartisan branch of Congress, also projected in 2018 that the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund’s $4 billion debt could balloon to $15 billion by 2050 partially due to declining coal production.

The legislation is supported by the National Black Lung Association (NBLA). NBLA President Gary Hairston said in a statement, “Giving us 10 years of the historically higher excise tax prevents us from having to fight every year.”

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