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In a breathtaking but largely overlooked ruling this week, a federal judge agreed that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may disregard studies on the health impacts of mountaintop removal mining in its permitting process, only two weeks after Goldman Prize Award-winning activist Maria Gunnoe wrote an impassioned plea to President Obama to renew withdrawn funding for U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) research on strip mining operations and redouble federal action to address the decades-old humanitarian disaster.
(Gunnoe’s full letter is below.)
The prophetic call for immediate federal action by Gunnoe, a community organizer for the West Virginia-based Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and a long-time witness to the tragedy of mountaintop removal, has never been so timely.”Appalachian citizens are the casualties of a silent “war on people” who live where coal is extracted,” Gunnoe wrote the President. “Citizens of all ages are dying for the coal industry’s bottom line.”
We all must recognize and resolve these mountaintop-removal-caused health problems and end the onslaught of pollution on people. Ending mountaintop removal could be as simple as passing HR 526: the Appalachian Community Health Emergency Act, or possibly even an Executive Order. The ACHE Act will place a moratorium on all new mountaintop removal permits. This bill, when passed, will immediately improve the lives and health of the people who live with these impacts daily.
Two years ago, in fact, the USGS published preliminary findings on “unusually high” toxic compounds in the soil and water near strip mining operations. That USGS research team is no longer funded.
“Our state politicians display a willful ignorance of some 24 peer-reviewed scientific reports about mountaintop removal’s human health effects,” Gunnoe wrote. “Studies show a correlation between living near a mountaintop removal site and significantly increased rates of cancer, birth defects and premature deaths. We believe they’d have a much harder time ignoring studies put out by the USGS.”
Besieged residents in strip mining areas of Illinois, including Rocky Branch, and Kentucky, where a similar ruling over ignored human health risks, have long called for federal enforcement and action of flawed mining regulations.
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