lungsThe appropriations bill package under consideration by the House contains a provision that prevent the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) from implementing a key provision in its campaign to End Black Lung, a disease which claimed the lives of 10,000 coal miners in the last decade.

The rider would prohibit the DOL from enforcing its "coal dust" rule until the methodology behind the rule undergoes an independent assessment by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The GOP legislation calls on the GAO to evaluate the MSHA’s data collection and sampling, to include an analysis of whether such data supports current trends of the incidence of lung disease arising from occupational exposure to respirable coal mine dust across working underground coal miners.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of black lung cases has more than doubled since 1995. Possible reasons include: inadequate coal-mine-dust regulations; failure to comply with those regulations; lack of disease prevention measures to accommodate changes in mining practices (e.g., thin-seam mining with cutting of adjacent silica-containing rock) and miners' working longer hours.

Ironically, the measure provides big increases in funding for research into fossil energy -- including coal -- despite increasing calls for the development of alternative and sustainable forms of energy. There is a rider to block clean water rules opposed by mining companies that blast the tops off mountains.

Democratic lawmakers have said that they find the riders "unacceptable."

Rep. Norm Dicks of Washington, senior Democrat on the Appropriations Committee said; "We have made this very clear to the other side. If you expect our votes (on the appropriations bills) you've got to get rid of the controversial riders."