Sign-on letter to Kentucky's members of Congress, urging support for RECLAIM Act, Black Lung Fund, and Miners' Pension Fund
Please sign your name to the letter below before a deadline of November 9, 2018. It will be sent to all of KY's Representatives and Senators in Congress in mid-November. The letter calls on them to support three bills that are needed right now to advance a Just Transition for coal miners, their families and communities.

Specifically the letter calls on them to support:
a) Legislation (soon to be filed) that strengthens the solvency of the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund; and
b) The bipartisan RECLAIM Act (H.R. 1731), sponsored by U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, which will help revitalize coal communities by creating thousands of good reclamation jobs and supporting longer-term economic development initiatives; and
c) The bipartisan American Miners Pension Act (H.R. 3913 / S. 1911), which ensures that the UMWA's 1974 Pension Plan can continue to pay the pensions retired miners or their surviving spouses have earned.

We especially encourage miners and family members, faith leaders, health and legal professionals, union leaders, business leaders, educational leaders, elected officials, candidates, and other organizational and community leaders to sign. It’s most powerful if you are willing to include your organizational or business affiliation and role. (While our focus is on Kentucky, we welcome all supporters, including out-of-state.)

Please sign this letter today, and then share the link with your networks. The deadline is November 9th. Questions? Contact Lisa Abbott, 859-200-5159, lisa@kftc.org. Thank you!
______________________________________________________________________________

November 2018

Dear Senator __________ or Representative _________________:

We are Kentuckians. The #___ people who have signed this letter are community leaders who represent a broad and diverse set of organizations, faith communities, businesses, and institutions across our Commonwealth. We urge you and all members of Congress to do everything in your power to support and help pass several pieces of legislation that are needed to advance a Just Transition for Kentucky’s coal miners, and to assist their families and communities.

Kentucky is a state with many rich assets, including our land, water, heritage, and people. For more than 100 years, Kentucky workers produced the energy that has powered America. Yet our mining communities are now experiencing widening economic distress with the decline of the coal industry and mining jobs.

We believe that a just transition to a healthy and sustainable economy in Kentucky is possible. We also know that good outcomes in this time of change are not inevitable. To build a bright future, our communities need leadership, vision, long-term investment, and active community involvement. Your leadership is needed to advance public policies that invest in our miners, families, and communities.

Specifically, we urge passage of three bills needed for a just transition for coal miners and their families and communities:

a) Legislation that strengthens the solvency of the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund by maintaining the excise fee at its current level, rather than allowing it to decline at the end of 2018. (Note: We will update this section with a bill name and number once legislation is introduced in the coming weeks.)

b) The bipartisan RECLAIM Act (H.R. 1731), sponsored by U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, which will help revitalize coal communities by creating thousands of good reclamation jobs and supporting longer-term economic development initiatives.

c) The bipartisan American Miners Pension Act (H.R. 3913 / S. 1911), which ensures that the UMWA's 1974 Pension Plan can continue to pay the pensions retired miners or their surviving spouses have earned.

Of these measures, the proposal many Kentuckians are most familiar with is the RECLAIM Act, HR 1731. The RECLAIM Act would generate hundreds of good jobs across our Commonwealth, creating meaningful economic opportunities for people and places most affected by coal’s decline. This bill invests $1 billion from the Abandoned Mine Lands Fund over the next five years to reclaim qualifying sites in Kentucky and other states and to support long-term economic development initiatives. Kentucky alone has an inventory of more than $455 million in abandoned mine sites in need of reclamation, which are roughly divided between eastern and western Kentucky.

In addition to passing the RECLAIM Act, we call your attention to the terrible epidemic of black lung disease facing Kentucky miners. We urge you to strengthen funding for the federal Black Lung Disability Trust Fund before the end of this calendar year.

Black lung disease is an incurable, fatal, and preventable condition costs by exposure to coal and dust. We are deeply alarmed that rates of black lung disease are now surging among miners in Central Appalachia, especially in eastern Kentucky. One in five veteran working miners in Central Appalachia now have black lung. That rate has doubled in the past decade.

The federal Black Lung Disability Trust Fund exists to provide health and other benefits to miners and their dependents in cases where the miner worked for a company that has gone bankrupt. According to a recent study by the GAO, the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund is itself in poor health. The fund is at risk due to a combination of several factors, including more miners getting sick with the disease and more coal companies going bankrupt. Making matters worse, the funding source, an excise tax on coal, is scheduled to decline by half at the end of this year, unless Congress acts to reverse that decision.

In FY2017, more than 4,326 Kentuckians were paid $40.9 million across all federal Black Lung claims. This essential source of support means everything to sick miners and their families, and it is a significant source of revenue for health care institutions and our local economy.

We therefore call on you to support legislation (we will insert a bill number here once the legislation is filed in the coming weeks) to to protect the solvency of the Trust Fund by keeping the excise tax on coal at its current level. This legislation recognizes that coal companies have a moral and legal responsibility to pay for their health and disability costs associated with black lung disease. Please do not support or allow to pass any legislation that seeks to shift those costs to American taxpayers or makes it more difficult for coal miners to qualify for or acquire federal black lung benefits.

Lastly, we call on you to protect the pensions promised to thousands of retired union miners who worked for coal companies that have since gone bankrupt. The federal fund that provides a backstop for these workers’ pensions is at risk due to the 2008-2009 recession and the rise in coal company bankruptcies. Please keep our commitments to these workers by supporting and helping to pass the bipartisan American Miners Pension Act (H.R. 3913 / S. 1911) before the end of 2018.

As Kentuckians, we urgently need your leadership. Please actively support and work to pass these essential measures before the end of this year.

Sincerely,
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