September 21, 2016

Manchin Commends Finance Committee Passage of Miners Protection Act

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) today commended the Senate Finance Committee on passage of the Miners Protection Act, legislation that would ensure that the federal government and coal operators honor their obligation of lifetime pensions and health benefits to retired miners and their families who are facing uncertainty as a result of the financial crisis and corporate bankruptcies. 

In June, after months of negotiations and urging, the Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch personally promised Senator Manchin that the Miners Protection Act would receive a vote in the Finance Committee this September.

“Even though it is long overdue, the Miners Protection Act passage through the Senate Finance Committee brings us one step closer to fulfilling the commitment that we made to our miners more than 70 years ago,” Senator Manchin said. “We have just returned from the longest Congressional recess in history and my colleagues are already running for the door with unfinished business. If we do not pass this bill, 16,000 miners will lose their healthcare at the end of this year.  Then 3,500 miners will lose their healthcare in March and another 3,500 miners will lose their healthcare in July. We need to get the job done.”  

At the Finance Committee mark-up, Senator Manchin submitted a statement to the record on the commitment made to our miners in 1946 and the importance of the passage of the Miners Protection Act. To read the full statement, click here.

On May 25th, Senator Manchin and 28 of colleagues sent a letter to Leader McConnell calling for action on the Miners Protection Act before the long, summer recess. To read the full letter click here.

To address these issues, the Miners Protection Act would:

  • Amend the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act to transfer funds in excess of the amounts needed to meet existing obligations under the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) fund to the UMWA 1974 Pension Plan to prevent its insolvency.
  • Make certain retirees who lose health care benefits following the bankruptcy or insolvency of his or her employer eligible for the 1993 Benefit Plan. The assets of Voluntary Employee Benefit Association (VEBA) created following the Patriot Coal bankruptcy would be transferred to the 1993 Benefit Plan to reduce transfers from the AML fund.