Today lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives responded to the public health emergency that is happening throughout Appalachia because of an extreme and devastating form of coal mining, mountaintop removal mining, with the introduction of a bill to address it, the Appalachian Community Health Emergency Act (HR 5959). Today there are 20 peer-reviewed scientific studies that show alarmingly high birth defect rates, mortality rates, cancer rates, and major disease rates in areas of mountaintop removal mining. As communities suffer from the severe water and air pollution of this extremely destructive practice, Congressional representatives have introduced this bill to require health studies by the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate the human health toll of this mining and to place a hold on new permits until those studies are complete.
Kayford Mountain, WV. Mountaintop removal mining devastates the landscape, turning areas that should be lush with forests and wildlife into barren moonscapes. (Mark Schmerling)
The original cosponsors of the Appalachian Community Health Emergency Act (HR 5959) are Representatives Dennis Kucinich (OH), Louise Slaughter (NY), Maurice Hinchey (NY), Earl Blumenauer (OR), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA), John Yarmuth (KY), Lynn Woolsey (CA), Judy Chu (CA), Raúl Grijalva (AZ), James Moran (VA), Michael Honda (CA), John Conyers (MI), and Keith Ellison (MN).
The following is a statement by Earthjustice Senior Legislative Counsel Joan Mulhern:
“We applaud the all of the original cosponsors of this bill for demonstrating this leadership in protecting Appalachian communities and families from an extreme and abominable form of coal mining, mountaintop removal mining.
“The science and the dismal state of Appalachian communities and public health near mountaintop removal require urgent Congressional action. The alarmingly high rates of birth defects—the leading cause of death for infants under one year old—are especially urgent to address. In fact, families and communities have been grieving, suffering, and crying out for help from our nation’s elected leaders for decades to address and better understand the links between mining pollution and increased rates of illness. So today’s action to hear their voices and protect them from one industry’s wreckage and harm is a tremendous step in the right direction. We expect every Member of Congress who cares about children and families to immediately support this bill.
“We join the bill’s cosponsors and our partners across Appalachia to urge all of our Congressional representatives to stand up for the sanctity of life and for the health and future of Appalachian communities by supporting this critical bill, as well as any other measure to protect families, children, and communities from destructive mountaintop removal mining.”