Bill Calling for Moratorium on Mountaintop Removal Permitting Introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC—Lawmakers concerned about the health effects on humans from mountaintop removal coal mining set forth legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives June 19. Representatives Dennis Kucinich (OH), Louise Slaughter (NY), Maurice Hinchey (NY), Earl Blumenauer (OR), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA), John Yarmuth (KY), Lynn Woolsey (CA), Judy Chu (CA), Raúl Grijalva (AZ), James Moran (VA), Michael Honda (CA), John Conyers (MI), Keith Ellison (MN), and Donna Edwards (MD) introduced the Appalachian Communities Health Emergency (ACHE) Act [H.R. 5959] which would place a moratorium on permitting for mountaintop removal coal mining until health studies are conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Allen Johnson of Christians For The Mountains, urged, “This bill is necessary to address the high rate of serious community health in mountaintop mining communities. Protecting health and life is a priority for people of faith and moral conscience. We call our nation to be a ‘Good Samaritan’ to come to our rescue here in Appalachia.”
With more than 20 peer-reviewed research studies published about the human health impact of mountaintop removal on the lives of those living within close proximity to an active mine site, legislation to protect communities is critical and long overdue.
Dr. Michael Hendryx, Professor of Community Health at West Virginia University, shared, “Along with other researchers who have studied this issue, I have previously stated that Mountaintop Removal Mining should be stopped until such time as it can be demonstrated to be conducted in a matter that is safe for the environment and for the health of people who live near these mining sites. I come to this position based on the evidence at hand. The evidence clearly indicates that mountaintop removal causes serious and persistent damage to local ecosystems, and that mitigation efforts to prevent or compensate for this damage are unsuccessful. The evidence also clearly indicates that populations who live near these mining activities experience elevated risks for a variety of serious health problems including cancer, heart and lung disease, birth defects, and others, in ways that are not explained by other disease risk factors. An immediate moratorium on mountain removal mining is warranted by the evidence.” (1)
News of this bill brought reaction from a number of people with various backgrounds. Said longtime West Virginia community activist Bo Webb, "The Appalachian Communities Health Emergency (ACHE) Act offers an opportunity to all House members to put differences aside and swiftly pass a bill that will protect the health and lives of the unborn."
Ginger Danz, resident of Fayetteville, WV, reacted, "As a mother, this is the best news I've heard in a while. My daughter's health is the reason I got interested in learning more about mountaintop removal in West Virginia, and the research I have done scares me. A 42 percent higher risk of birth defects in mountaintop removal communities is beyond unacceptable; not to mention elevated rates of cancer and heart disease related to this particular type of mining. I am very relieved that someone is finally listening to the people of Appalachia and getting the word out about the dangers to our health."
Father John Rausch, a Glenmary priest in eastern Kentucky, commented: "I've heard direct testimony from a woman who unknowingly bathed her 3-year old daughter in arsenic laced water from mountaintop removal. I've also heard numerous stories about children developing asthma living near mountaintop removal sites and teens getting tumors and gallstones from mountaintop removal-tainted water. Is it a coincidence that people close to mountaintop removal suffer these sicknesses more frequently? Prudence, a cardinal virtue, tells us to stop and check the process. The Appalachian Communities Health Emergency Act puts health and safety first. Ultimately, it is immoral to sacrifice the health of our children for cheap electricity!"
Patricia Hudson, Director of Tennessee-based Lindquist Environmental Appalachian Fellowship, offered, "As people of faith, we are called to care for each other. If we ignore the health impacts mountaintop removal has on our brothers and sisters in the coalfields, we are turning our backs on one of the most basic tenets of our Christian faith."
In his essay, Coal Must Embrace the Future, the late West Virginia Sen. Robert C. Byrd wrote: "Most members of Congress, like most Americans, oppose the practice, and we may not yet fully understand the effects of mountaintop removal mining on the health of our citizens." In 2010 he added, "If blasting and digging and relocating streams unearths harmful elements and releases them into the environment causing illness and death, that process should be halted and the resulting hazards to the community abated."
Connie Hanson, who heads up the national prayer network, Christians Caring for Creation, concluded,
“The health crisis related to surface mining in Appalachia is extremely serious, heart-breaking, and an emergency! However, in the "Appalachian Community Health Emergency Act'" (HR 5959) there is now hope for children and adults who are suffering the terrible consequences of this method of mining. For reasons of health, safety, and compassion, this bill needs to be passed. Also, it seems to me that HR 5959 tries to carry out God's directions to us in the Bible, Galatians 6:2 and Matthew 7:12: "Bear one another's burdens"; "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you."
Christians For The Mountains is a member of the Appalachian Community Health Emergency (ACHE) coalition that advocates protecting human health from the effects of mountaintop removal. The 14 co-sponsors who introduced this bill are commended along with the many other religious, environmental and community groups and countless individuals across Appalachia and the nation for their tireless work to stop mountaintop removal coal mining due to its effects upon God’s creation and the health of God’s people.
The Appalachian Communities Health Emergency Act is supported by the national environmental groups Earthjustice and the Sierra Club, as well as West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards.
[Print version of the ACHE Coalition Press Release: http://www.stoptheache.org/pdfs/ACHEActPressRelease.pdf]
1. “Considering environmental impacts of MTM/VF [mountaintop mining/valley fill], in combination with evidence that the health of people living in surface mining regions of the central Appalachians may be compromised by mining activities, we conclude that MTM/VF permits should not be granted unless new methods can be subjected to rigorous peer review and shown to remedy these problems.” Palmer et al. Mountaintop mining consequences. Science, 2010, 327, 148-149.
The APPALACHIAN COMMUNITY HEALTH EMERGENCY (ACHE) campaign is the collaborative grassroots effort established by Christians for The Mountains, Coal River Mountain Watch, and Mountain Health & Heritage Association, “Advocating for government action and protection of the public from the health crisis in mountain top removal communities.” Office is at 110 Maryland Ave. NE, Suite B-1, Washington, DC 20002