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“Fix What’s Broke” campaign launched for miners

LONDON — This week, the grassroots social justice organization Kentuckians For The Commonwealth (KFTC) launched a paid media campaign – including 10 billboards plus radio, newspaper and digital ads in central and eastern Kentucky – calling on members of Congress to stand up for coal miners and communities by passing a package of Just Transition bills in 2020.

The campaign’s message is that Congress must “Fix What’s Broke” by passing bills to clean up abandoned coal mines and polluted waterways and by extending funding for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund for an additional ten years.

“All these issues are connected,” said Teri Blanton, a former chairperson of KFTC who grew up in Harlan County and whose father died of black lung disease. “It took years of struggle to win the federal laws to protect our health and environment, and decades more to get those rules enforced. Now the coal industry wants Congress to let them off the hook. They don’t want to have to pay for black lung benefits or to clean up abandoned mines. Elected leaders can’t let them turn their backs on our workers and communities.”

The ads feature 20 portraits of individual Kentuckians, including coal miners with black lung disease, widows and close family members of miners, and other eastern Kentucky residents affected by unreclaimed mines and polluted water. Each message urges Kentuckians to learn more and take action through the campaign’s website: FixWhatsBroke.com.

KFTC’s paid media is part of a campaign supported by a broad coalition of groups to pass a package of related bills through Congress in 2020. The groups are calling on Congress to:

• Restore funding for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund for the next ten years to protect essential benefits for miners with black lung disease and their families (H.R. 3876 and S. 3172);

• Pass the RECLAIM Act to invest $1 billion over the next five years in creating good jobs while cleaning up abandoned mine sites and polluted waterways (H.R. 2156);

• Reauthorize the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Program, which requires coal companies to pay into the fund used to reclaim old mine sites and polluted waterways (H.R. 4248).

“We’ve already seen some results,” said Jimmy Moore, President of the Southeast Kentucky Black Lung Association. “I do believe that the one-year extension of the black lung fee which Congress passed last December was a result of all the work we’ve put in. But a one-year fix is a political thing. It doesn’t solve the serious problems facing the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund. So, we’ll just continue to fight.”

Currently, the bills supported by this campaign for are moving forward in the U.S. House, with some support from Kentucky’s congressional delegation. Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY5) and Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY2) are co-sponsors of the RECLAIM Act, while Congressman John Yarmuth (D-KY3) is a co-sponsor of both the RECLAIM Act and the Black Lung bill.

The House Natural Resources Committee voted to advance the AML Reauthorization bill on Jan. 15. With that, all three House bills are now ready for a vote on the House Floor and may be rolled into a single bill before a vote to send them on to the Senate.