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Hearing: Federal Government Must Study Health Impact of Mountaintop Removal Mining

WASHINGTON – A Congressional hearing this morning focused in part on efforts by Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-3) and others to study the health consequences of mountaintop removal coal mining.

Displaying a bottle of contaminated water from the well of the Urias family in Eastern Kentucky, Yarmuth questioned Dr. Matthew Wasson, director of programs for Appalachian Voices, about the need for such a study. The hearing took place in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy.

“They don’t need a website in their community to know there’s a health problem associated with that water,” Yarmuth said of those who live near mountaintop removal mining sites. “If that were the drinking water here in Congress, we not only wouldn’t drink it – we would not stand for it.”

Click here to watch the video

Despite more than 20 peer-reviewed studies showing correlations between increased health risks and mountaintop removal mining, the federal government has yet to conduct a single study on the health consequences of the practice, in which coal operators use heavy machinery and explosives to remove upper levels of mountains and access coal seams beneath. These operations often result in contamination of surrounding land and water supplies.

This Congress, Yarmuth introduced H.R. 526, the Appalachian Community Health Emergency (ACHE) Act, which would halt permits for mountaintop removal mining operations until the federal government can study its health impacts on nearby communities and declare the practice safe.

According to recent peer-reviewed research, people living near mountaintop removal coal mining sites have increased rates of cancer, birth defects, and mortality. Additionally, an analysis in the journal Science found communities near mountaintop removal coal mining sites experience higher rates of chronic heart, lung, and kidney disease, as well as higher levels of adult hospitalizations for chronic pulmonary disorders and hypertension. [Read the study here.]

To watch video of the hearing, please click here