Murray Energy vows legal battle to overturn new coal dust rules - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Murray Energy vows legal battle to overturn new coal dust rules

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Murray Energy says it will challenge the Obama administration's new coal dust regulations, calling them "deeply flawed and irrational."

The new rules, unveiled April 23, are intended to reduce miners' exposure to black lung by lowering allowable levels of coal dust in mines.

In announcing the final rules, Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez said black lung has played a role in the deaths of more than 76,000 miners since 1968.

"I believe we can have both healthy miners and a thriving coal industry," he said in announcing the new rules. "The nation made a promise to American miners when we passed the Coal Act in 1969 – with today's rule we're making good on that promise."

The new rules reduce overall dust standards to 1.5 milligrams per cubic meter of air for most miners, cutting it even more at certain mine entries and miners with pneumoconiosis. Coal operators will be required to more quickly intervene when dust levels are high and requires more frequent sampling of areas known to have relatively high dust levels, such as those closest to the production area. Other changes govern how and when samples are taken and will require operators to conduct thorough on-shift dust control assessments.

But Murray insists that instead of protecting miners' health, the new rules "clearly seeks to destroy the coal industry, and the thousands of jobs that it provides, with absolutely no benefit to the health or safety of miners, whatsoever."

"Numerous independent scientific and technical experts have spent the past four years examining the prospective Rule, spending millions of dollars in the process," the company said. "These independent experts concluded that the prospective Rule is deeply flawed, does not improve the health of coal miners, is completely infeasible, and is exorbitantly expensive. Most especially, the work shows that there are far better and more effective ways to protect a miner’s health than this political concoction."

The company insists the reduced coal dust levels are "technologically and economically unachievable, even when utilizing the most advanced mining technologies in the world."

"Additionally, existing technologies cannot reliably or accurately measure dust concentrations that low." they said. "Our experts indicate that the cost of work stoppages alone, caused by the Rule, will cost our Nation billions of dollars, per year ... (and will) close mines, bankrupt coal companies, and destroy the lives and livelihoods of thousands of coal miners, without protecting the health or safety of our miners."

The company also maintains the administration's rules changed are based on data it described as "woefully inadequate," and questions the government's push for personal dust monitors rather than require personal protective equipment it says is specifically designed to reduce or completely eliminate miner exposure to dust.

“The Obama Administration completely ignored the voluminous comments of the best experts in

the world, which exposed the Rule’s irrationality, impossibility of implementation, and numerous other

fundamental flaws,” said Gary M. Broadbent, Assistant General Counsel and Media Director for Murray Energy. “This Rule is economically and technologically infeasible, arbitrary and capricious, and

unsupported by the best available ...There are far better ways to minimize any dust that a coal miner may breathe, rather than this politically motivated concoction."

Murray Energy employs more than 7,300 people and operates 13 active coal mines in six states.