West Virginia lawmakers back miner pension bill

FILE - In this April 30, 2007, file photo, a shovel prepares to dump a load of coal into a 320-ton truck at the Black Thunder mine in Wright, Wyo. The mine is owned by St. Louis-based Arch Coal Inc. which says its Chapter 11 filing will not affect employee pay or benefits while the company reorganizes its debt. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown, File)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Four West Virginia lawmakers are backing new legislation in Congress to fund pensions for about 87,000 retired and 20,000 vested coal miners, saying it fulfills a promise made by President Harry Truman in 1946.

U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito, Reps. David McKinley and Evan Jenkins say about 26,000 live in West Virginia.

It would shore up the 1974 United Mine Workers of America Pension Plan hurt by coal company bankruptcies and the 2008 financial crisis.

Funding would come from excess funds from the federal Abandoned Mine Land program and low-interest Treasury Department loans.

It follows congressional approval earlier this year to fund promised lifetime health benefits for nearly 23,000 retired miners and widows.

UMWA President Cecil Roberts says a secure loan now beats big taxpayer liability later.