In 1946, a promise was made by Congress to the coal miners as a direct result of the sweat and blood of generations of miners whose toil carried this nation through war and peace - a promise of cradle to grave health care that manifested itself into the 1992 Coal Act.
In 1977, the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act promised residents of coal-mining areas to reclaim devastated landscapes, to return their land to productive uses, and to protect their health and safety.
The Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program has been a success. Unlike the Superfund, this program has a track record of real, on-the-ground progress in restoring lands and eliminating health and safety threats. And since 1992, through the transfer of just the interest which accrues to the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund to the Combined Benefit Fund, it has provided health care for tens of thousands of elderly retired coal miners whose former employers can no longer be identified.
But at the end of this year the fees assessed on the coal industry which finances this effort expire.
If HR 3796, co-sponsored by Rep. Barbara Cubin , R-Wyo., and Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., is passed, it will keep the promise to some 50,000 retired coal miners that their health care will continue uninterrupted.
Recently the passage of HR 3796 has shown dire importance, especially in the states of Kentucky, West Virginia, Indiana and Illinois where U.S. Bankruptcy Judge William Howard finalized the decision allowing Horizon Natural Resources to file bankruptcy, thus voiding union contracts providing health care coverage for nearly 3,000 employees, including 2,300 retirees.
Readers should contact their elected officials and demand passage of HR 3796 so the promise can be kept to the coal miners.