A real friend is someone who would feel loss if you were diagnosed with a dread disease, or died from one.
However, if you want to be a friend of coal, remember, “… (T)his game is about money. We’ve got to get to the money aspect of this thing rather than the social aspects.”
That’s how one of the coal industry’s biggest friends , Don Blankenship, summed up his disdain for the regulators who attempted to enforce laws to limit coal dust in mines and prevent black lung.
“The truth of the matter is, black lung is not an issue in this industry that’s worth the effort they put into it,” the former Massey Energy CEO said in a recorded call introduced in his trial recently.
But that outlook seems to be the consensus among many other “friends of coal,” as well.
Take Eva Elizabeth Hill’s case. Hill’s husband, Arthur, was awarded black lung benefits in 1987, after working 41 years in southern West Virginia’s mines. When he died, in 2000, his widow filed for benefits.
She was denied. An administrative judge ruled there was insufficient evidence to prove her husband died of black lung disease.
She appealed and was denied again. But in 2010, the Affordable Care Act’s passage heralded an “automatic entitlement” provision.
That provision entitles certain survivors of a miner eligible to receive black lung benefits to survivors’ benefits without having to prove the miner died from black lung.
She won on appeal based on that provision. Peabody Coal persisted, seeking a review by the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case this week.
Sadly, Eva Elizabeth Hill died while her case was pending before the Supreme Court.
Yet now, when a miner dies who’s receiving these benefits, his eligible survivors should be able to simply fill out a form to begin receiving benefits in their own name.
Meanwhile, several members of Congress, including Sen. Joe Manchin, introduced a bill recently that requires coal companies to compensate miners who contract black lung, and ensures them equal access to medical evidence and better access to legal resources.
What’s telling about the Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act of 2015 is that none of the Republican members of our congressional delegation have taken a position on it.
Nor have those other friends of coal, the West Virginia Coal Association.
The black lung benefits claims process has traditionally been stacked legally and medically against miners by the industry. There’s a long history of coal companies not looking out for their workers’ safety or long-term health.
Friendship is not a big thing with them, either. It’s only the million little things, the dollars, that count.
This article was from The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.