The federal government is considering a new proposal that would allow miners to sue the state for coal fires they say have caused them to miss paychecks, or even lost jobs.
A group of Montana coal miners filed a federal lawsuit Thursday alleging the state’s coal ash ponds have caused their paychecks and even lost their jobs.
The lawsuit alleges that the coal ash program, which was put into place in the mid-1980s to curb toxic air pollution from the nearby Mount Rushmore National Memorial, has led to health problems in miners.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Helena, Montana, by four Montana coal mine workers, who allege that since the coal mine closure in 2016, they have been unable to collect on wages owed by other mining workers and lost their pay for the last several years.
The state has denied any wrongdoing.
Montana has long had a long-running dispute with the federal government over the safety of the coal mining industry.
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality says the state has not yet conducted any studies into the health effects of coal ash.
Montana is one of four states that allow miners suing the state to collect the costs of any damages caused by coal fires.
The other states are West Virginia, Nevada and Wyoming.
Mining companies have claimed that the new rules, if approved by the Trump administration, would allow them to keep their jobs in Montana.
Montana Attorney General Mike Kruse said in a statement that the state is “actively exploring and pursuing” the potential of the new law.
The new proposal is one step in the process, Kruse added.
The new federal rule would allow mining companies to sue a state if they allege that coal ash caused the miners to miss a paycheck or lost a job, and the coal company then loses those claims.
The suit would then go to the U.D.A., where a judge would decide whether the coal industry had “actual knowledge” of the damages caused.
The miners’ attorney, Jeff Reiten, said the new federal proposal would make it more difficult for the state and the federal governments to get compensation for the coal mines’ health effects.
He said the federal proposal was designed to help companies and to protect the state from having to compensate for the effects of a coal fire.
“It’s not going to address the health impacts of coal burning, but it does allow them, under these new rules to have a way to pursue a lawsuit,” Reitens statement said.
“The miners are going to be asking, ‘How can we get compensation?'”
Reitens attorney, David Stebbins, said in an interview with The Associated Press that it’s unclear how the new proposal will affect the health of the miners and the communities that depend on them.
He also said the proposal doesn’t address the issue of a future mine closure or coal ash pond closures.