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Rockefeller, Rahall propose protecting retiree health care

Retired coal miners whose health care benefits were slashed in federal bankruptcy court would be protected from such actions under bills proposed by two West Virginia congressmen.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Rep. Nick Rahall, both D-W.Va., introduced measures in the Senate and House on Thursday that would bar coal companies from evading their obligations under the 1992 Coal Act to finance health care for retired miners.

It's the first blow in a campaign to bar employers from using bankruptcy to evade obligations to their employees, Rockefeller said.

"The deficit of the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. has doubled in one year because so many companies are going to bankruptcy court," Rockefeller said.

The measure introduced Thursday is specifically aimed at Horizon Natural Resources, a coal company that filed for bankruptcy in eastern Kentucky in November 2002.


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