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MSHA extends until 2022 comment period for RFI on coal dust rule study

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Washington — The Mine Safety and Health Administration is extending to July 2022 the deadline for comment on a Request for Information concerning a retrospective study of the agency’s respirable coal mine dust rule.

MSHA announced the extension in the July 3 Federal Register, six days before the original period was set to close. The retrospective study is required under the coal dust rule, which went into effect in August 2014.

When the RFI first appeared on the Department of Labor’s regulatory agenda in December 2017, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and other lawmakers expressed strong opposition to any rollback of MSHA’s respirable coal dust rule. The two West Virginia senators authored separate letters to Secretary of Labor R. Alexander Acosta.

MSHA administrator David Zatezalo attempted to alleviate the senators’ concerns during a House Workforce Protections Subcommittee hearing in February 2018 and again five months later, in a press release on the RFI.

“To be clear, MSHA is initiating the study referenced in the preamble to the final rule to determine if the rule is meeting its intended result,” Zatezalo said in the release. “MSHA has no intention of rolling back the protections afforded to coal miners under the final dust rule.”

 

A NIOSH study published in the American Journal of Public Health in August 2018 found that cases of black lung disease, also known as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, are at a 25-year high. Much of that rise has been attributed to an increase in silica or quartz dust in mines.

Although OSHA’s silica dust rule is currently in effect, MSHA’s remains in the early stages of rulemaking. An RFI on that rule will focus on personal protective equipment, Zatezalo said during a June 20 House Workforce Protections Subcommittee hearing.

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