New Bill Puts People's Health before Mountaintop Removal Permits
Posted June 20, 2012
There is good news today in the fight to to protect Appalachian communities from the health effects of mountaintop removal mining. Yesterday Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) , Louise Slaughter (D-NY), and eleven other House members introduced The Appalachian Communities Health Emergency ("ACHE") Act (H.R.5959). This bill rightly focuses on answering the serious questions about mountaintop removal’s health impacts, placing a moratorium on new Clean Water Act permits for mountaintop removal until further health studies are conducted.
The ACHE Act is a prudent response to the growing body of research suggesting that the destruction of mountaintops and valley streams across Appalachia is a physical as well as visual insult to those who live in its shadow. The evidence linking mountaintop removal mining with serious health impacts has been accumulating for years. Studies published in the last several years have linked mountaintop removal mining to higher rates of cancer, birth defects, and chronic heart, lung, and kidney disease in nearby communities.
As my colleague Allen Hershkowitz has argued, the existing indications of environmental and human harm warrant an immediate moratorium on new mountaintop removal permits, and they absolutely warrant further scientific investigation supported by the federal government.
It’s important to get this right the first time. The environmental consequences of mountaintop removal are proving to be long-lasting, resistant to mitigation, or even irreversible. Last year, Duke University researchers found that in addition to contamination from MTR mines being cumulative, mine sites abandoned decades ago still continue to contaminate waterways. In 2010, an interdisciplinary team of researchers reviewed science on the impacts of mountaintop removal across several fields in a study published in Science magazine. They concluded that “the scientific evidence of the severe environmental and human impacts from mountaintop mining is strong and irrefutable. Its impacts are pervasive and long lasting and there is no evidence that any mitigation practices successfully reverse the damage it causes.”
Peer-reviewed science has raised clear and serious questions about how mountaintop removal affects public health in nearby communities. The sponsors of the ACHE Act are to be applauded for their work to defend people from “strip mining on steroids.”
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