Read the Beforeitsnews.com story here. Advertise at Before It's News here.
Profile image
By Appalachian Voices
Contributor profile | More stories
Story Views
Now:
Last hour:
Last 24 hours:
Total:

Black Lung Benefit Fund Would See Major Boost from Change to Coal Tax

% of readers think this story is Fact. Add your two cents.


By Willie Dodson

Changing the structure of the tax on coal mining that funds federal benefits for miners could bring tens of millions of dollars annually to the cash-strapped Black Lung Disability Trust Fund.

Money raised from the Black Lung Excise Tax provides benefits for thousands of miners with black lung disease and their families when the companies responsible for their condition have gone bankrupt or closed. But the excise tax does not apply to exported coal, and miners and advocates are calling for a different tax structure to solve the problem.

The coal industry has experienced a wave of bankruptcies starting around 2014 that has had the effect of releasing some operators from their obligations to workers, and revealing that others never posted sufficient insurance with the Department of Labor to honor obligations to their miners. This leaves the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund on the hook for providing black lung benefits and healthcare coverage for more miners, just as increased exposure to silica in the mines is causing the frequency of black lung to spike in Appalachia.

In 2020, more than 18,000 miners and their families relied on the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund. Yet the fund itself has been insolvent for years, digging ever deeper into debt. In 2020, the fund spent $339 million in benefits and administrative costs, but the excise tax only generated $301 million, leaving a tab of $38 million with the general treasury and the American taxpayer.

In 2019, the shortfall was even greater. Trust fund revenues were only $217 million and benefits and administrative costs totaled over $326 million.

In total, due to revenue shortfalls since the inception of the black lung program, the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund is more than $4 billion in debt to the general treasury.

Despite this, the coal industry has pushed Congress to cut the excise tax in half, arguing that the current rate is too burdensome. But this move would, in all likelihood, add over $100 million annually to the trust fund’s already astronomical debt, according to Appalachian Voices projections based on 2020 coal production levels. These efforts were successful in 2019, before grassroots pressure from the Black Lung Association and others — including Appalachian Voices, the publisher of The Appalachian Voice — compelled Congress to reinstate the full tax rate for one year at the end of 2019. The Black Lung Association is now pushing Congress to extend this tax rate for 10 years.

five miners wearing shirts that say Black Lung Kills gather around a notepad

Miners went to Congress in 2019 to press for black lung benefits. Photo by Earl Dotter

While miners and coal companies continue to fight over the rate of the Black Lung Excise Tax, there’s another way the industry is shirking its responsibility to workers with black lung. This is the export loophole.

There is a clause in the U.S. Constitution preventing Congress from taxing exported goods, so the black lung fund does not receive any tax dollars from coal that is mined in the United States but sold overseas. However, while an excise tax applies to the sale of a product, a severance tax applies to the extraction of a natural resource. In other words, if Congress were to pass a law establishing a Black Lung Severance Tax in place of the current Black Lung Excise Tax, this would apply to all coal mined in the United States.

“Just because coal is exported doesn’t mean the miners didn’t get black lung when they mined it,” says Bethel Brock, a retired miner with complicated black lung, and president of the Norton, Virginia chapter of the Black Lung Association. “The black lung tax needs to be applied where the coal comes out of the ground. It doesn’t matter to the miners struggling to breathe if it ends up going on a boat or not.”

Even with declining coal markets, advocates believe that replacing the excise tax with a severance tax is one remedy that is needed to address the financial requirements of the chronically insolvent trust fund.”It’s a straightforward and fiscally responsible way to boost trust fund revenues,” says Rebecca Shelton of Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, which represents coal miners filing black lung claims. “Over 50% of exported coal is metallurgical coal and we can expect that the metallurgical coal market will not decline as precipitously as the thermal coal market.”

chart shows amount of additional revenue the fund would have received from exports in 2019 and 2020

In fiscal year 2019 and 2020, revenue from exports would have increased total revenue for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund by tens of millions of dollars. Chart by Rebecca Shelton, Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center

U.S. coal mines produced just over a half a billion tons in 2020, and about 13% of this coal was exported. If the origins of that exported coal were similar to overall production in that roughly 64% was surface mined and 36% was mined underground, then changing the excise tax to a severance tax would have brought in about an additional $51.5 million to the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund in 2020. This would have more than covered that year’s $38 million shortfall.

“It’s disgusting how these companies will do whatever they can to not pay what they ought to,” says Brock. “We’ve got to save this Black Lung Trust Fund so that the miners working today are taken care of when they get sick, and we need to make the companies pay a severance tax to do it.”

Protecting the Central and Southern Appalachian Mountain Region



Source: https://appvoices.org/2021/04/16/black-lung-benefit-fund-would-see-major-boost-from-change-to-coal-tax/


Before It’s News® is a community of individuals who report on what’s going on around them, from all around the world.

Anyone can join.
Anyone can contribute.
Anyone can become informed about their world.

"United We Stand" Click Here To Create Your Personal Citizen Journalist Account Today, Be Sure To Invite Your Friends.

Please Help Support BeforeitsNews by trying our Natural Health Products below!


Order by Phone at 888-809-8385 or online at https://mitocopper.com M - F 9am to 5pm EST

Order by Phone at 888-388-7003 or online at https://www.herbanomic.com M - F 9am to 5pm EST

Order by Phone at 888-388-7003 or online at https://www.herbanomics.com M - F 9am to 5pm EST


Humic & Fulvic Trace Minerals Complex - Nature's most important supplement! Vivid Dreams again!

HNEX HydroNano EXtracellular Water - Improve immune system health and reduce inflammation

Ultimate Clinical Potency Curcumin - Natural pain relief, reduce inflammation and so much more.

MitoCopper - Bioavailable Copper destroys pathogens and gives you more energy. (See Blood Video)
Oxy Powder - Natural Colon Cleanser!  Cleans out toxic buildup with oxygen! 
Nascent Iodine - Promotes detoxification, mental focus and thyroid health.
Smart Meter Cover -  Reduces Smart Meter radiation by 96%!  (See Video)

Immusist Beverage Concentrate - Proprietary blend, formulated to reduce inflammation while hydrating and oxygenating the cells.

Report abuse
Loading...

    Comments

    Your Comments
    Question   Razz  Sad   Evil  Exclaim  Smile  Redface  Biggrin  Surprised  Eek   Confused   Cool  LOL   Mad   Twisted  Rolleyes   Wink  Idea  Arrow  Neutral  Cry   Mr. Green

    MOST RECENT
    Load more ...

    SignUp

    Login

    Newsletter

    Email this story
    Email this story

    If you really want to ban this commenter, please write down the reason:

    If you really want to disable all recommended stories, click on OK button. After that, you will be redirect to your options page.