Congress finally addresses community health emergency in Appalachia
Mountaintop removal mining devastates the landscape, turning areas that should be lush with forests and wildlife into barren moonscapes. (OVEC)
Big news today in our fight to end destructive mountaintop removal mining: 13 congressional leaders joined to introduce legislation to protect communities and families from the dangerous health effects of our nation's most extreme form of coal mining—mountaintop removal mining.
The Appalachian Community Health Emergency Act is the first federal legislation to address the human health effects of mountaintop removal mining. More than 20 peer-reviewed scientific studies show significantly elevated birth defect rates, early mortality rates, cancer rates, and major disease rates in areas of mountaintop removal mining. There is truly a public health emergency, and these studies point the blame to mountaintop removal mining.
This bill aims to protect communities and address this health emergency: It would require the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct thorough health studies on the human impacts of mountaintop removal, and until it is proven that this form of mining is not killing, harming, or sickening families, children, and people across Appalachia, it would place a hold on all new mining permits.
Said Rep. Dennis Kucinich in a statement today on the bill:
The Appalachian Communities Health Emergency Act will provide the families in these communities the answers and the protection they deserve. Mountaintop mining is a practice in which entire mountaintops are blown up in order to access a seam of coal sitting deep inside the mountain. The evidence is growing that toxic chemicals that are safely sequestered in rock inside the mountain, get released when the mountains are turned inside out … These small communities deserve better than to wonder whether their corporate neighbors are poisoning the soil that provides some of their food; the air they breathe; and the water they drink, cook, and bathe with.
The Appalachian Community Health Emergency Act joins the Clean Water Protection Act (HR 1375) as a companion bill to protect people from mountaintop removal mining. The two bills should be passed together to address the human health impacts of mountaintop removal.
For perspective on just how expansive the destruction of this type of mining is, here are some images of cities with an overlay of the footprint of just one mountaintop removal site. There are hundreds of dead zones like this all across West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia.
Read our Mountain Heroes' stories to understand what this mining really does to families and communities.
We applaud the leadership of these 13 House representatives and urge for more of our nation's leaders to join them in working for the basic rights of people and the future of Appalachia. We also urge the White House to follow this urgent congressional action with swift federal action.
Here are the 13 co-sponsors of the Appalachian Community Health Emergency Bill. If one of these leaders are your congressional representative, please take a moment to send them a message, thanking them for their bold action today to protect communities and people: