Immediate Release: October
Teplitzky, Sierra Club, 412-802-6161, email@example.com
Jim Sconyers, West Virginia Sierra Club, 304-698-9628, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cindy Rank, WV Highlands Conservancy, 304-924-5802, email@example.com
Stockman, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, 304-360-1979,
Vernon Haltom, Coal River Mountain Watch, 304-952-4610, firstname.lastname@example.org
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 W.Va.
Boone County, W. Va. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to
account for the negative health impacts on people living near a massive new
mine in Boone County, according to a lawsuit filed today by the Sierra Club, Ohio
Valley Environmental Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and Coal
River Mountain Watch.
groups acted to block a US Army Corps of Engineers permit that allows Raven
Crest Contracting to destroy nearly 3 miles of streams at the Boone #5 mine in
Boone County, West Virginia. The permit, a requirement under the Clean Water
Act to begin mountaintop removal mining, was issued by the Army Corps on August
30th. The organizations contend that the Corps was wrong in issuing
the permit because it failed to review the human health impacts on people
living near the mine. A similar suit was filed at the same time by the Sierra
Club and Kentuckians For The Commonwealth to block a Corps permit for a surface
mine along the Perry and Knott County border in Eastern Kentucky.
“In my practice as a family physician in
Huntington, West Virginia, I see many patients who live in the West Virginia
coal fields. There is a growing body of peer-reviewed research showing a
correlation between certain chronic conditions and morbidity with the
prevalence of mountaintop removal mining in nearby counties. I have seen
unexplained health disparities in my patient population and I'm concerned that
mountaintop removal mining could be affecting the health of my patients,"
said Dr. Syndee McElroy. "For the health and safety of Appalachian
citizens, the Army Corps of Engineers must take these health concerns into
increasing body of 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 American. 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 Boone #5 mine.
not news any more. We know that mountaintop removal mining makes our people
sick. Protecting people’s health must be paramount. And having coal companies
build pristine streams is almost laughable. The Corps must get its priorities
straight,” said Jim Sconyers of the West Virginia Sierra Club.
the organizations argue that the Corps has failed to consider the impacts of
mining through high quality streams. Under the current permit, Raven Crest will
be allowed to destroy almost three miles of streams because it claims it can
rebuild them. However, due to the pristine nature of some of the impacted
waterways, citizen groups claim that it would be impossible for the company to
return the streams to a similar quality.
"As a little boy we lived in Ashford
just up the hill from where the Raven Crest sign now stands. My
grandfather and grandmother owned a small general store in Ashford near the
bridge over Coal River. I learned to swim in that river. I am the eighth
generation to have been born in that area and am deeply saddened to see the
massive destruction to the mountains and streams caused by mountaintop removal
strip mining and to know that those mines also threaten the health of our
people," said Julian Martin of the WV Highlands Conservancy.
"Growing up, I thought of Peytona and
Racine as a timeless and unchanging place with beautiful free flowing steams
and small communities where at least seven generations of my ancestors have
lived healthy, productive lives. Unfortunately the increased strip mining by
Raven Crest is now threatening Roundbottom, Peytona and Racine with a
variety of problems including dust, blasting damage and toxic water pollution
so bad that I worry about the impacts on unborn children and others at risk of cancer,
kidney disease or a variety of other major illnesses. It's time the Corps and
other regulatory agencies begin to pay attention to the potential human health
risks posed by this and similar mining, and deny their application for permits
to expand their operations," said Robin Blakeman, a Community Organizer
futures depend on having clean air to breathe and clean water to drink,” said
Debbie Jarrell, Co-Director of Coal River Mountain Watch. “Coal industry
profits will not sustain our lives here in West Virginia. Why do elected
officials allow these companies preferential treatment at the cost of our
people? Where is the outrage, or concern, over the studies that are beginning
to show the effects mountaintop removal has on our people, our water and our
The complaint was filed against the US Army
Corps of Engineers in the US District Court for the Southern District of West
Virginia. Sierra Club, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, West Virginia
Highlands Conservancy, and Coal River Mountain Watch are represented in this
matter by Joe Lovett, Amy Vernon-Jones and Mike Becher of Appalachian Mountain
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.