Consider health impacts of mining, U.S. Army Corps told

A coal company's plans to destroy 3.5 miles of streams in the Lotts Creek area of Knott County should have drawn scrutiny for its potential health impacts on nearby residents, attorneys for those residents, KFTC and the Sierra Club argue in a motion for summary judgment filed Tuesday in a lawsuit challenging those plans.

The lawsuit initiated last year challenges a permit – which also includes a massive valley fill – allowing the destruction that was issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In reviewing that permit, the Corps failed to consider the health impacts on people living near the mine, as required by law.

“This mine is going to ruin our neighborhood here in Sassafras. We have several people on my street who already have breathing problems and kids with asthma," said Pam Maggard when the lawsuit was filed in October. "Once again no one will be able to enjoy being outside on their porches and in their yards because of all the dust and mud."

"Despite a growing body of scientific evidence that large-scale surface mining increases the risk and severity of cancer, pulmonary disease, cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions, the Corps did not conduct any review of potential public health impacts of this mine," the plaintiffs point out in their motion. "The Corps disregarded numerous peer-reviewed studies, which Plaintiffs cited in comments on the Permit, documenting these health risks.

"The Corps’ failure to consider the potential health impacts of the mine is particularly puzzling in light of the considerable attention paid to mining-related health studies by the media, the public, and the Corps’ partner agency, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the public controversy which has arisen in response."

The Corps violated the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act and its own regulations in not considering these impacts. And it used a broader scope of review for considering benefits than for harms from the proposed mining operations.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to vacate the permit. The case is filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, Louisville Division. The Corps office that issued the permit is in Louisville.

KFTC and the Sierra Club are represented by Earthjustice, Appalachian Citizens Law Center and Appalachian Mountain Advocates.

A copy of the Plaintiffs' Memo for Partial Summary Judgment can be downloaded here.

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