Black Lung Returns, Female Congressional Staffers Paid Less, Chicago Public Schools Lie
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Following a joint investigation by NPR, the Center for Public Integrity, and the Charleston (W.V.) Gazette, the Mine Safety and Health Administration has announced that they are looking into tougher regulations to deal with a recent skyrocketing increase in black lung, which was once thought to be nearly eradicated in the mines. From NPR:
NPR and the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) have learned that the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and the Labor Department are putting together a team of agency experts and lawyers to specifically consider how to bolster coal mine dust enforcement given the statutory and regulatory weaknesses detailed by NPR and CPI this week in stories about the resurgence of black lung.
The effort includes discussion of how the agency might be more aggressive in filing civil and criminal actions against mining companies that violate coal mine dust standards, according to an internal Labor Department communication obtained by NPR.
Black lung is the disease that steals the breath of coal miners and is both incurable and irreversible in later stages. It is caused by inhalation of excessive coal mine dust.
An NPR and CPI investigation found that the disease has spiked in the last decade, especially in portions of Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia. NPR and CPI documented weak enforcement by federal regulators and cheating by mining companies involving the system that is supposed to limit exposure to coal mine dust.
From 1980 through 2002, the Justice Department successfully prosecuted close to 200 mining company managers and contractors for falsifying mine dust compliance samples, according to federal records obtained by CPI and NPR.
But MSHA says there have been no convictions since then. The agency declines to say whether there have been any attempted prosecutions since 2002.