Feds Wash Their Hands of Cancer Risk From Mountaintop Removal Mining

Agency digs heels in on refusal to look at human health effects of mountaintop removal mining


Liz Judge, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2007

A U.S. District Court rejected a challenge by local residents to a permit for a new mountaintop removal coal mine, ruling that the Army Corps of Engineers is free to ignore human health risks when it decides whether to permit a mountaintop removal coal mine and that the agency’s decision to allow streams to be buried was reasonable based on the company’s promise to try to enhance other streams in the state.

The following are statements from plaintiffs and attorneys in the case:

Alice Whitaker, Director of the Lotts Creek Community School and Wellness Program and member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth:
“As the director of a federally funded community wellness program here, I am extremely concerned about health problems associated with mountaintop removal mining and the threat to our children. The government says it wants to support rural health, and I thought we were making progress, but permitting mines without addressing health risks is a big step backwards.”

Neil Gormley, Earthjustice attorney:
“It’s outrageous that our own government would claim it doesn’t have to consider its people’s health. The policy that was upheld today lets the Obama administration close its eyes to evidence of increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and other serious health problems from mountaintop removal coal mines. This policy puts Appalachian people at grave risk. The system is clearly broken and needs to be fixed.”

Lane Boldman, Sierra Club Kentucky Chapter and Secretary of the Board of Directors:
“We’re still reviewing the decision, but are deeply disappointed that the Army Corps of Engineers failed to consider the devastating impacts this mountaintop removal mine will have on communities in Kentucky. The science is clear that mountaintop removal mining not only poisons our drinking water and destroys our land, but is linked to serious and deadly illnesses including cancer, heart, lung and kidney diseases. The Corps has consistently failed in their responsibility to consider all of the environmental impacts of this dangerous form of mining, leaving Appalachian families to pay the price.”

Mary Cromer, attorney at the Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center:
“The scientific evidence is mounting that the risks of heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, birth defects, and cancers are significantly higher for those folks who live closest to large-scale surface mines. The law requires that when the Corps issues a permit, it must consider the impacts of the permitted activity on human health and that it must consider whether the permitted mine will have disproportionate impacts on low-income populations. The Administration is so far refusing to undertake either of these inquiries.  It is failing the citizens of Eastern Kentucky.”

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