By CECIL ROBERTS
United Mine Workers of America (UMWA)
Charleston, W.VA. – I have been around Washington, D.C. for more than 40 years in the service of the UMWA’s members, which means I have heard a lot of whoppers come out of the mouths of politicians. But few of them top the absolute bull some are peddling about the impact of the Inflation Adjustment Act (IRA), introduced by Senator Joe Manchin.
It was shocking to read a member of Congress from West Virginia, Rep. Alex Mooney, attack the restoration of full funding for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which is included in the IRA. The Fund provides small benefits to some, but not nearly enough, victims of this insidious disease and their widows, thousands of whom are West Virginians.
‘IN CONGRESS LONG ENOUGH TO KNOW’
Rep. Mooney has been in Congress long enough to know that the rates coal companies will pay under the IRA are exactly what they had been paying since the 1980s, until the beginning of this year. This isn’t a tax increase – the coal companies have been enjoying a tax windfall for the last seven months and American taxpayers are picking up their tab.
Let’s be clear: Black Lung is caused by breathing too much coal and silica dust, which only happens when coal operators do not follow the law with respect to how much dust is in the atmosphere of a mine. Scofflaw coal companies are the culprits, and asking them to pay 50 cents more per ton of coal that is used domestically is only right, especially at a time when they are selling their coal for unprecedented high prices.
ENSURING CORPORATIONS PAY THEIR FAIR SHARE
I must also say that ensuring corporations with more than a billion dollars in revenue pay their fair share of taxes is a no-brainer for working families. Many companies already do, but those who do not are simply gaming loopholes in the tax system for their own benefit – and once again, ordinary American taxpayers are picking up their tab, too.
Those who are attacking this legislation also overlook some pretty obvious benefits of this bill to West Virginia coal miners, like the billions in tax credits for the application of Carbon Capture and Storage technology, which would allow coal-fired power plants to extend their lives for decades. This is one of the first times Congress can actually take steps to support the coal industry, which few ever expected.
And the $4 billion in tax credits in this bill that provides incentives for manufacturers to build plants in the coalfields will provide good jobs to thousands of coal miners who have already lost their jobs and revitalize communities across West Virginia and Appalachia. It can mean immediate benefits to companies the UMWA is partnering with to provide hundreds if not thousands of jobs to dislocated miners and other West Virginia workers.
SHOULD BE THANKING SENATOR MANCHIN
I cannot understand how any politician who actually cares about working West Virginians and the quality of their lives can trash this bill. They should be thanking Senator Manchin, not attacking him. But when blinded by ideology and ambition, some will say and do anything – even when they know they are not being straight with the people.