Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

Wolf urges Congress to fund health benefits for coal miners

A group of coal miners listen to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt during his visit to Consol Pennsylvania Coal Company's Harvey Mine in Sycamore, Pa., Thursday, April 13, 2017.

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

A group of coal miners listen to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt during his visit to Consol Pennsylvania Coal Company's Harvey Mine in Sycamore, Pa., Thursday, April 13, 2017.

Governor Tom Wolf is urging Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation to ensure thousands of coal miners can keep their healthcare benefits.

Wolf says without passage of the federal Miners Protection Act, benefits would expire at the end of the month, leaving miners and their families without coverage. The bill would use interest from the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act to sustain health and pension funds administered by the United Mine Workers of America.

“Retired miners worked for these benefits, paid for them with years of service doing dangerous work so that the rest of us could have reliable and affordable power,” Governor Wolf said in a statement. “We have a responsibility to see that these benefits are preserved.”

Senator Bob Casey (D) is a co-sponsor of a bipartisan bill—Senate Bill 175—as are Representatives Boyle, Brady, Cartwright, Doyle, Fitzpatrick, Shuster and Thompson in the House of Representatives, where the bill was introduced as House Resolution 179.

On Tuesday, Wolf sent a letter to other members of Pennsylvania’s delegation who have not signed on as co-sponsors yet.

Here’s the full letter:

Dear Representative:

As you may be aware, without action from Congress in the coming days, health care benefits for tens of thousands of retired coal miners, including nearly two thousand in Pennsylvania, will expire at the end of April. Without action from Congress in the near term, the pension plan relied on by 13,000 Pennsylvania retirees will approach insolvency in the next few years. Retired miners worked for these benefits, paid for them with years of service doing dangerous work so that the rest of us could have reliable and affordable power. We have a responsibility to see that these benefits are preserved.

To ensure that we uphold our commitments, I urge you to join the bi-partisan coalition supporting the Miners Protection Act (HR 179), which provides a comprehensive and permanent remedy to continue health care benefits, and ensure the long-term solvency of the United Mine Workers of America’s 1974 Pension Plan and Trust.

The Miners Protection Act, which Senator Casey has championed in the Senate, and which your colleagues Representatives Boyle, Brady, Cartwright, Doyle, Fitzpatrick, Shuster, and Thompson have joined as co-sponsors in the House, is bipartisan, completely offset, and will not divert dollars from abandoned mine reclamation work.

On March 1, 2017, Pennsylvania’s retired miners and their families began receiving letters informing them that their health benefits will be terminated at the end of April. This was the second such letter many have received in the past five months. As you can imagine, the ongoing uncertainty about benefits many of these retirees depend on for critical services and lifesaving medications has been a significant source of anxiety and stress, and only compounds as the deadline approaches. We owe these workers better. I urge you to support the Miners Protection Act in order to provide a permanent remedy that averts the loss of hard-earned health and retirement benefits and gives our miners and their families peace of mind.

For the sake of Pennsylvania’s retired miners and their families, please support the Miners Protection Act. Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

TOM WOLF
Governor

 

 

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