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Community Members Fight To Save Schoolchildren and Families from Mountaintop Removal

Argue their case to stop a destructive mine in federal appeals court today
February 11, 2014
Lexington, KY —

Today, national and Kentucky groups argued their challenge to a proposed Kentucky mountaintop removal mine in federal appeals court.

Kentuckians For The Commonwealth and Sierra Club Cumberland Chapter, represented by Earthjustice, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, and Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, made their case against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ approval of Leeco Inc.’s proposed Stacy Branch mountaintop removal mine before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The groups are challenging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ position that it can ignore human health risks when it decides whether to permit a mountaintop removal coal mine. Earthjustice attorney Neil Gormley presented the oral arguments on behalf of the groups.

The proposed Army Corps permit for the Stacy Branch mine in Knott and Perry Counties of Eastern Kentucky would allow the Leeco Company to destroy 3.5 miles of streams that local families depend on by burying them with toxic coal mining waste. Hundreds of people live within a half-mile of the proposed mountaintop removal mining site. The site would overshadow the nearby Lotts Creek Community School, which serves 325 students kindergarten through high school. Numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies show significantly higher disease, cancer, and mortality rates in the areas closest to mountaintop removal.

The proposed permit for the Stacy Branch mine in Knott and Perry counties of eastern Kentucky would allow the Leeco Company to destory 3.5 miles of streams that local families depend on, by burying them with toxic coal waste.

Alice Whitaker, director of the Lotts Creek Community School and Wellness Program and member of the Sierra Club, supports the lawsuit in the interest of the health and safety of children in her school.

Said Alice Whitaker:
“As an educator and director of a school and community wellness program I work for the health and education of children who want their future to be in eastern Kentucky. Health studies have found increased rates of cancer, morbidity and birth defects for people living close to mountaintop removal coal mines. As we consider the the type of future we are creating for our students and their families, I hope today is the day our regulators and leaders recognize and take seriously the health impacts associated with surface mines like the one above my school."

Said Doug Doerrfeld, member of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth:
“The people of southeastern Kentucky already are hard at work creating a bright future for our mountain region. To succeed we must have healthy people and clean water to build a new economy. Therefore, it is essential that the Army Corp of Engineers know there will be no human health impacts before granting permits for large surface coal mines."

Said Earthjustice Attorney Neil Gormley, who is presenting the oral arguments today on behalf of the groups:
“The central issue of this case is whether the government is allowed to ignore public health in its permitting of extremely harmful mountaintop removal mines. The proposed site is within a stone’s throw of a school and hundreds of families, in an area already mined heavily. This case is not about whether the government can do more to protect its children and citizens; it is about whether the government should be able to get away with ignoring them.”

Contacts

Liz Judge, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2007

Joe Lovett, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, (304) 645-9006

Mary Cromer, Appalachian Citizens' Law Center, Inc., (606) 633-3929

Doug Doerrfeld, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, (606) 784-9226

Sean Sarah, Sierra Club, (330) 338-3740

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.