Retired Miners Earned a Rescue

Some members of Congress may be growing tired of the nagging from U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va. He just won’t stop reminding them they have to do something to rescue retired coal miners and their families from a dilemma not of their own making.

For decades, miners could feel safe in the knowledge that upon retiring, they would receive pension checks and health care coverage secured by fees paid on every ton of coal produced. That was a reasonable assumption.

Now, however, with the federal government forcing utilities to turn against coal for power generation, mine retirees and the families are in trouble. Funds covering their pensions and health care are being drained.

As many as 120,000 retired miners and family members face bleak futures. The health care fund already is nearly empty, with the pension system not far behind.

In December, Congress approved a measure to secure health care benefits, but only temporarily. That protection will end April 28.

McKinley has proposed a bill to provide long-term security for the retirees. It would protect their pensions and health care with a federal bailout.

Money for the purpose would come from excess funds in an abandoned mine reclamation program, and from a very small — less than two-tenths of 1 percent — increase in fees for customs processing of goods entering the United States.

McKinley’s fellow lawmakers should adopt the plan as soon as possible. A nation seemingly eager to abandon the coal industry should not do the same thing to men and women on whom most of us could rely for light and heat for many decades.

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