Earthjustice, the nation’s largest environmental law organization announced its support for the Appalachian Community Health Emergency Act, legislation introduced by Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) to halt all new mountaintop removal mining permit applications, and any expansion of existing permits, until a comprehensive study of the practice’s health effects could be completed. The legislation authorizes the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct the study.
Mountaintop removal mining is the most destructive form of mining in which the tops of mountains are literally blown off to reach the coal seams beneath. Over a dozen peer-reviewed scientific studies have shown severe and escalating cases of birth defects, lung cancer, and increased rates of heart disease in communities where mountaintop removal is conducted as compared to other areas in Appalachia.
The Obama administration authorized a study by the National Academy of Sciences into the effects of mountaintop removal mining in 2016, but the Trump administration cancelled the study without explanation in mid-2017. Earthjustice, on behalf of Coal River Mountain Watch, filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking information on the reasons for the study’s cancellations.
“This legislation would protect the communities of rural Appalachia who’ve been living with mountaintop removal mining’s toxic legacy for generations,” said Jenifer Collins, Legislative Representative with Earthjustice. “We need to get the full picture of what this dangerous practice does to human health, and we need to put an end to mountaintop removal mining. We commend Congressman Yarmuth and his colleagues for their work on this critical piece of legislation.”
“It seems to me this beautiful American idea we call democracy would fix such a horrible idea as mountaintop removal, but sadly that has not yet happened,” said Bo Webb, ACHE campaign coordinator. “I am hopeful that the new U.S. House of Representatives will have the courage to put an end to the unjust and shameful practice of blowing up mountains directly over the top of Appalachian communities, poisoning the air that every baby, mother, father, and family breathe.”
“This historic bill represents the intersection of environmental justice and climate change,” said Bob Kincaid, Coal River Mountain Watch board president. “By abolishing mountaintop removal, we can not only protect the health of Appalachian people who have for generations been sacrificed for coal company profits, but take a bold step toward giving the children of Appalachia and the nation as a whole a better future.”