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On DOL’s agenda: rules on ‘black lung’ benefits, MSHA civil penalties

Washington – A rule listed on the Department of Labor’s spring 2014 regulatory agenda is intended to address problems with the administration of the Black Lung Benefits Act, through which miners receive compensation for disabilities related to pneumoconiosis – also known as “black lung” disease.

Currently, parties are not required to disclose medical evidence developed in connection with a claim for benefits, and the act does not provide a method for determining a rate at which payments for medical treatment can be capped. The new rule from the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs would address the disclosure of medical evidence, create a fee schedule for medical treatment and address liable parties’ responsibility to pay benefits while pursuing modification. Additional details on the rule have not been released, but a notice of proposed rulemaking is expected next January.

Also on the agenda: Scheduled for publication in May 2014 (but not yet released as of press time) is a notice of proposed rulemaking to revise how the Mine Safety and Health Administration proposes civil penalties. Another NPRM, regarding proximity detection systems for mobile machines in mines, is slated for release in September, while a request for information is expected in August concerning possible regulatory action on issues related to the deadly 2010 Upper Big Branch mine explosion.