Black Lung Excise Tax letter

The Honorable Robert C. Scott                                                      

Chairman, House Education & Labor Committee                    

Washington, DC 20510                                                                   


 The Honorable Patty Murray 

 Chair, Senate Committee on Health, 

Education, Labor & Pensions

Washington, DC 20510


The Honorable Richard Neal                                                                

Chairman, House Ways & Means Committee                

Washington, DC 20510                                                                       


The Honorable Ron Wyden

Chairman, Senate Finance Committee

 Washington, DC 20510



January 13, 2022


Dear Chairpersons Scott, Neal, Murray, and Wyden:


On December 31st, 2021, the single source of revenue for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund (BLDTF) was cut by more than half. Thousands of coal miners and their families rely on the BLDTF to pay their benefits – health insurance and a small living stipend. The living stipend for a miner is less than $700 a month, but the health insurance can make all the difference for the survival of families dealing with this awful disease. The stipend, though small, is often one of the primary sources of income for widows and family members left behind when miners succumb to the disease. 

The only source of revenue for the BLDTF is a small excise tax on domestically sold coal. If the tax is cut or goes away, taxpayers end up picking up the bill, the Trust Fund goes further into debt, and the benefits that miners have earned are put under a cloud of uncertainty. That’s why the Black Lung Association has been fighting for a long-term extension of the excise tax. Legislation introduced by Representative Scott and Senators Manchin, Warner, Casey, Kaine, and Brown would extend the excise tax at its historic rate for ten years, but this legislation needs your support to pass. For the past two years, the historic excise tax rate ($1.10 per ton for underground coal and $0.55 for surface-mined coal) has been maintained by one-year extender bills, but our mining families need to know this program will be funded for the long term.

Last year, your Committees worked diligently to include a four-year extension of the excise tax in the Build Back Better Act (BBBA) alongside other impactful policies for miners including incentives for manufacturers to locate and create jobs within coal communities, and policies to ensure that workers have the right to form a union. However, without a 2021 tax extender bill or the passage of BBBA, the tax rate was cut by more than half at the end of 2021, putting the BLDTF further into debt and putting miners’ benefits at risk. Based on 2021 revenue collection, we can estimate that the fund is losing, on average, approximately $2.8 million each week that the tax rate is not extended. That amounts to new tax benefits for coal companies and new expenses that fall on taxpayers.


Given the urgency to restore the excise tax to its prior rate and the uncertainty concerning the passage of the BBBA, as leaders of your committees, the Black Lung Association members and over 60 supporting organizations signed on below urge you to act expediently in 2022 to support and pass the Black Lung Benefits Disability Trust Fund Act of 2021 (S. 2810). Miners and families impacted by black lung need the stability of a longer term extension of the excise tax so they can address other urgent issues – including a study on the adequacy of the benefits, the need for workplace protections to prevent the disease, and legislation that addresses the BLDTF’s solvency crisis over the long-term.




Black Lung Association Leaders:

Gary Hairston, President National Black Lung Association: President, Fayette County WV Black Lung Association

Vonda Robinson, Vice President of National Black Lung Association

Dianna Perdue, Secretary, National Black Lung Association; Treasurer, Kanawha County WV Black Lung Association

Arvin Hanshaw, President, Nicholas County Black Lung Association

Dean Vance, President, Southwest Virginia Black Lung Association, Chapter 1

Bethel Brock, President, Southwest Virginia Black Lung Association, Chapter 2

Mark Lane, President, Wyoming County WV Black Lung Association

Brenda Ellis, Vice President, Wyoming County WV Black Lung Association

Fred Pinson, Vice President, East Kentucky Coalfield Black Lung Association

William Jay McCool, Vice President, Black Lung Association of Southeastern Kentucky

Judith Riffe, Secretary Treasurer, Wyoming County Black Lung Association

Linda Adams, Secretary, East Kentucky Coalfield Black Lung Association

Mike Hairston, President, McDowell County Black Lung Association

Kanawha County Black Lung Association


Supporting and Partner Organizations:

American Friends Service Committee- West Virginia

Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center

Appalachian Community Services

Appalachian Land Study Collective

Appalachian Voices 


Berea College

Breathe Project

Bronx Jews for Climate Action

Center for Coalfield Justice

Center for Rural Strategies

Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance

Charleston, WV Branch NAACP

Chesapeake Climate Action Network

Christians For The Mountains

Citizens Coal Council

Clearfork Community Institute 

Climate Action Alliance of the Valley

Coal River Mountain Watch

Earth Action, Inc.

Eastern PA Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation (EPCAMR)

Eco-Justice Collaborative

Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions

Friends For Environmental Justice

Friends of the Earth U.S.

Gesundheit Institute

Greater Highland Area Concerned Citizens

Grow Gillespie

Gwendolyn Ridge, LLC

Highlander Research and Education Center

Illinois People’s Action

Jewish Climate Action Network

Jewish Climate Action Network NYC

Joe Hill Music LLC

Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Kentucky Interfaith Power and Light

Kentucky Resources Council

Keystone Research Center

League of Women Voters of the United States

Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange Network (LiKEN)

National Wildlife Federation

On the Levels Farmstead, LLC.

Pennsylvania Council of Churches

Pennsylvania Jewish Earth Alliance

Rainelle Medical Center’s Black Lung Clinic

Respiratory Health Association

Sierra Club 

Southern Appalachian Labor School

Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards

The Alliance for Appalachia

Thrive at Life: Workplace Solutions

Tifereth Israel Congregation

Tó Nizhóní Ání

Tri-Area Community Health

West Virginia Citizen Action Group

West Virginia Council of Churches

West Virginia Environmental Council

West Virginia Interfaith Power and Light

West Virginia Rivers Coalition

Western Colorado Alliance

Woodland Community Development Corporation

Updated: January 11, 2022 — 5:05 pm
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