Immediate Release: October
Army Corps Fails To
Consider Human Cost of Two Proposed Coal Mines
Contend Army Corps of Engineers Ignored Health Studies When Issuing Two New
Mountaintop Removal Permits in Kentucky, West Virginia
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to
account for the negative health impacts on people living near new mines in eastern Kentucky and West Virginia according to two separate lawsuits filed
the Sierra Club and
Kentuckians For The Commonwealth in Kentucky and the Sierra Club, Ohio
Valley Environmental Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and Coal
River Mountain Watch in West Virginia.
groups acted to block two U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permits – one 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 and a second that allows Raven
Crest Contracting to destroy nearly 3 miles of streams at the Boone #5 mine in
Boone County, West Virginia.
permits, a requirement under the Clean Water Act to begin mountaintop removal
mining, were issued by the Corps on July 26th for Leeco and August
30th for Raven Crest. The organizations contend that the Corps was
wrong in issuing the permits because it failed to consider the health impacts
on people living near the mines.
"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.
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 American. The groups filing
the actions 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 and Boone #5 mines.
Pam Maggard, a
member of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, lives near 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 Maggard.
Robin Blakeman, a Community Organizer for the Ohio
Valley Environmental Coalition, has generations of family from the area around the
Boone #5 mine in West Virginia.
"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 the area 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 and
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,"
organizations made further claims in both cases about impacts on local
streams. In the case of the Stacy Branch mine they 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.
At the Boone #5 mine, they argue that
the Corps 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, the citizen groups claim it would be impossible for the
company to return the streams to a similar quality.
"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 Sierra Club.
The Leeco, Inc. 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 Earthjustice.
The Raven Crest Contracting 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 Advocates.
Teplitzky, Sierra Club, 412-802-6161, email@example.com
Doerrfeld, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, 606-784-9226, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sconyers, West Virginia Sierra Club, 304-698-9628, email@example.com
Cindy Rank, WV Highlands Conservancy, 304-924-5802, firstname.lastname@example.org
Stockman, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, 304-360-1979, email@example.com
Vernon Haltom, Coal River Mountain Watch, 304-952-4610, firstname.lastname@example.org
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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.