Immediate Release: October
Teplitzky, Sierra Club, 412-802-6161, firstname.lastname@example.org
Doerrfeld, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, 606-784-9226, email@example.com
Army Corps Fails To
Consider Human Cost of Proposed Coal Mine
Contend Army Corps of Engineers Ignored Health Studies When Issuing a New
Mountaintop Removal Permit in Kentucky
Perry County, Kentucky - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to
account for the negative health impacts on people living near a massive new
mine in Eastern Kentucky according to a lawsuit filed today by the Sierra Club and
Kentuckians For The Commonwealth.
groups acted to block the permit that allows Leeco, Inc. to destroy more than 3
miles of streams and construct one enormous valley fill at the Stacy
Branch mine along the Perry and Knott County border in Eastern Kentucky. The permit, a
requirement under the Clean Water Act to begin mountaintop removal mining, was
issued by the Corps on July 26th. The organizations contend that the
Corps was wrong in issuing the permit because it failed to consider the health
impacts on people living near the mine. A similar suit was filed at the same
time by the Sierra Club and a number of organizations in West Virginia to block
a Corps permit for a surface mine in Boone County.
"As a family physician and
public health educator who practiced in rural Kentucky for over 30 years, I
am concerned about recent research showing that cancer, cardiovascular
disease, birth defects and low birth weight babies occur at higher rates
in people living near mountaintop removal coal mining sites. These communities
also experience a lower overall quality of life and a lower life expectancy.
These medical and public health concerns make it extremely important that we
take the human health cost of such mining into account in all decisions about
such mining practices," said Dr. John Patterson.
increasing body of published, peer-reviewed studies shows a correlation
between mountaintop removal mining and serious public health concerns including higher rates of birth
defects, certain forms of cancer, higher heart, lung and kidney disease rates and
a lower life expectancy than for the average Kentuckian. The groups filing
the action contend that the Army Corps of Engineers must, by law, take these
factors into account when issuing permits for mountaintop removal mining – something
it failed to do in the case of the Stacy Branch mine.
“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. 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. We lived through this a few years ago when coal trucks were
hauling through Sassafras six days a week, hundreds of trucks a day. We hadn’t
heard anything about this proposed permit for a few years, I really thought and
hoped they had decided to not mine that mountain,” said Pam Maggard, a member
of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth from Sassafras, Kentucky.
the organizations argue that the Corps failed to take the required “hard look”
at the environmental impacts from the mine because the agency relied on a
flawed protocol for assessing whether the proposed stream mitigation can actually
replace the streams destroyed by the mining.
"Mountaintop removal mining has put the
health of our mountain communities at risk for far too long. I
have been exploring the streams in this region for many years and have seen
many healthy streams degraded over time from mining impacts. I am greatly
concerned for the people who live, fish and play downstream from these mining
sites. It is irresponsible for the Corps to
approve any permit that doesn’t take the devastating health impacts
of mountaintop removal mining into account," said Lane Boldman of the Kentucky
The complaint was filed against the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of
Kentucky. Sierra Club and Kentuckians For The Commonwealth are represented in
this matter by Joe Lovett, Amy Vernon-Jones and Mike Becher of Appalachian
Mountain Advocates, by Mary Cromer of the Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center and by Emma Cheuse, Jennifer Chavez and Neil Gormley of
 Esch L, Hendryx M. Chronic cardiovascular disease
mortality in mountaintop mining areas of central Appalachian states. Journal of Rural Health, 2011, 27,
M, Wolfe L, Luo J, Webb, B. Self-reported cancer rates in two rural areas of
West Virginia with and without mountaintop coal mining. Journal of Community Health, 2012, 37, 320-327.
M. Mortality rates in Appalachian coal mining counties: 24 years behind the nation. Environmental
Justice, 1, 5-11, 2008.
M. Mortality from heart, respiratory and kidney disease in coal mining areas of
Appalachia. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health,
2009, 82, 243-249.