Review of research adds support for moratorium on mountaintop removal

Two media events Tuesday helped focus attention on the Appalachian Community Health Emergency Act, legislation in Congress that would place an immediate moratorium on new permits while the health impacts of mountaintop removal mining are studied.

Known as the ACHE Act, H.R. 526 was introduced earlier this year by Reps. John Yarmuth of Kentucky and Louise Slaughter of New York, who was born in Harlan County, Kentucky.

“I’ve talked to citizens in the area – towns were 25 percent of the people suffer from some kind of disease, way beyond the national average,” said Yarmuth in an afternoon Congressional briefing. “I’ve talked with teachers whose students color creeks orange.

“I travel throughout our state. I’ve seen the orange water. I talked to the people and I know what my own eyes have seen,” added Yarmuth, who said shortly after he took office the coal industry visited and told him to not believe anything he heard or read about mountaintop removal. “What is going on is immoral and a tragedy on many, many levels. What we are trying to do with the ACHE Act is the most effective way to put an end to mountaintop removal mining.”

“Certainly we owe a better life for the generations to come,” added Slaughter, the daughter of a Kentucky coal miner and who has a Master of Science degree in Public Health from the University of Kentucky. However, she expressed some doubt about the fate of the legislation in the current Congress. “We are working with some people here who don’t believe in science. As a microbiologist, that always troubles me.”

Earlier in the day, the Center for Health and Environmental Justice released an independent analysis of the research that links mountaintop removal mining with a variety of increased health problems. That National Commission on the Health Impacts of Mountaintop Removal Mining included an epidemiologist, biologist, neonatologist and pediatrician from four leading universities.

After reviewing the body of health studies, the commission that there is sufficient documentation of the hazards of mountaintop removal mining to warrant an immediate moratorium on mountaintop removal as the only way to ensure the health and safety of the affected residents of Appalachia. The commission’s report and recommendations can be found here.

Martin County resident and retired school teacher Mickey McCoy spoke at the morning press conference and said that he and his neighbors are seen as collateral damage by an industry focused only on profit.

Mickey McCoy“Martin County leads the state in bladder cancer cases, also kidney loss. Total cancer deaths per capita is one of the highest in this nation,” McCoy said after pointing out that nearly 30 percent of the total land area in Martin County has been leveled by strip mining and mountaintop removal. He described hot water tank tests conducted a few years ago that found at the church he attends sediment at bottom of the tank had 23 times more arsenic than the drinking water standard.

He said he stands behind the commission’s “recommendations and the scientific evidence which it derives from.”

In response to a question in the afternoon briefing, Dr. Michael Hendryx, who has conducted or been involved in many of the studies, said that elected officials are ignoring the strong science and conclusions of the health studies. “There has not been an acknowledgement at the state level, from the governor to other state officials. The people in positions of leadership need to acknowledge [the studies] and what the results show.”

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Comments

It makes my heart hurt to read all about the damage greed has done to our beloved home and mountains.I fondly remember the creeks, river, and hills and valleys that I played, explored as a child, the water was clear and clean enough to drink and we would just jump in anytime and swim, how sad that the youth today that live there have to think of the color of their waterways as orange.How I wish I was young again, so I could jump in this fight aganist pollution and the removing of our beautiful mountains. My Father, uncles, and grandfathers were all deep mining men and proud of it, My Dad passed away from lung cancer at 73, too young. I prau God will bless all that are involved to do the right thing, Save our mountains, land and way of life. 

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