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U.S. black lung fund will need taxpayer bailout if coal tax falls: GAO

• https://www.reuters.com, Valerie Volcovici

Coal companies are currently required to pay a $1.10 per ton tax on underground coal production to finance the federal Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which pays medical and living expenses for eligible miners, but that amount is scheduled to revert to the 1977 level of 50 cents.

"With the scheduled 2019 tax rate decrease, our moderate case simulation suggests that expected revenue will likely be insufficient to cover combined black lung benefit payments and administrative costs, as well as debt repayment expenditures," according to the report from the non-partisan Government Accountability Office.

Cases of black lung, an incurable illness caused by inhaling coal dust, are rising to levels not seen in decades as miners plumb the depths of played-out coal seams using heavy blasting equipment, according to government health officials.

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