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No support for miners in federal spending bill

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World Coal,

Citizens for Coal has criticised the recent Omnibus Spending Bill passed by the US Congress. The bill passed in the House of Representatives by 316-113 with 150 Republicans joining Democrats to pass the bill. It was later passed by the Senate in a 65-33 vote.

“Missing from the bill was any help for current coal miners, laid off coal miners or retirees who have lost or may lose [….] their pensions or their healthcare,” said United Citizens for Coal President Roger Horton in a statement. ”I guess when push comes to shove, we weren’t important enough and ended up giving away as a bargaining chip for something ‘more important’”

“But our coal miners and their families – and most especially our retirees and children – are not bargaining chips,” Horton continued.

In August, the Wall Street Journal reported that West Virginia was the only state in the US to lose a “statistically significant” number of jobs over the past 12 months. The state shed 19 100 jobs between July 2014 and July 2015 on the back a major job cuts at mining companies, such as Patriot Coal and Alpha Natural Resources – both of which entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy over the summer.

The bill was also criticised by West Virginia Senators Joe Manchin, a Democrat, and Shelley Moore Capita, a Republican, for excluding the Miners Protection Act, which would have ensured the federal government and coal operators met lifetime pension and health care obligations to retired miners and their families.

“I am especially disappointed that the Miners Protection Act was not included in this legislation,” said Senator Manchin, who co-sponsored the act in the Senate with Senator Capito and Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia, and was one of only six Democrats to vote against the Omnibus Spending Bill. “My language would have protected our miners’ hard-earned pensions and health benefits.

Senator Capito, who voted for the Omnibus Spending Bill, also expressed disappointment that the Miners Protection Act was not included but argued that the bill was still a good deal for West Virginia.

“While this bill is far from perfect, it will move us forward in significant ways,” Senator Capito said in a press statement. “For those who have been devastated by this administration’s relentless regulatory campaign, the bill includes resources to help our displaced West Virginia miners and improve mine safety. It supports research at West Virginia institutions to make coal, oil and natural gas energy production cleaner and more efficient.”

Horton, however, sees no such upside and warned West Virginia’s politicians that they would need to do better.

“Today, I serve notice on the members of Congress. If you expect the votes of coal miners, we expect you to put our needs and those of our families first. This isn’t negotiable and our allegiance is not something you can take for granted. The clock is ticking and you can very easily be voted out just as you were voted in.”

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