‘People’s Foot’ call for halt to MTR permits
By Peggy Mackenzie
Monday, Mar. 16 was officially declared “No More Mountaintop Removal Permits Day” at a People’s Foot rally in front of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Headquarters in Charleston in an effort to end mountaintop removal permits throughout the state.
The rally was organized on the heels of a breakthrough study that demonstrates the indisputable link between lung cancer and mountain top removal (MTR) mining that release particles of silica, aluminum, and molybdenum dust, resulting in serious health issues for people who live nearby.
Hosted by the “Put your Foot Down” movement, the People’s Foot is an alliance of residents, community and environmental groups, and national civil rights organizations. After witnessing the loss of their health, livelihoods, forests, historic farms and homes over a half century of unparalleled strip mining destruction, besieged residents are wondering if the federal government will issue protective respirators to “every man, woman, and child living near mountaintop removal mining.”
“Those of us living (and dying) in mountaintop removal communities need no more research to tell us mountaintop removal is killing us,” said Bo Webb, director of the Appalachian Community Health Emergency (ACHE) Act campaign. “We need the United States Congress to urgently pass the ACHE Act, and protect our children from breathing any more of these deadly toxins.”
First introduced in 2012, but not enacted, the Appalachian Community Health Emergency Act was reintroduced this year on Feb. 12 as HR 912. The ACHE Act, in summary, states: “This legislation places a moratorium on new mountaintop removal permits and the expansion of existing permits until the Department of Health and Human Services completes a study to determine whether such mining operations pose a health threat to people living nearby.”
Dozens of studies have already documented the human health risks of pollutants produced by mountaintop removal coal mining.
According to a November 2014 study conducted by the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center, dust that was collected from throughout Coal River Valley, when exposed to human lung cell tissue, was found to cause an immediate change that promotes the growth of tumors in human lungs, as reported in an article posted on MetroNews.com.
The health hazards of mountaintop removal mining extend beyond lung cancer. Researchers at West Virginia University and the U.S. Geological Survey concluded that Appalachian residents living near such mining operations “have higher rates of diseases, including cardiovascular, cardiopulmonary, lung, kidney, and respiratory diseases” than those in non-mining Appalachian areas.
“Our politicians and all government agencies need to stop running from the truth that we are forced to live and die with every day,” said Maria Gunnoe, the Goldman Prize recipient and an organizer with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition in West Virginia. “The science shows that mountaintop removal kills people. Why is mountaintop removal still being permitted?”
The writing is on the wall-the era of “clean coal” billboards is over in West Virginia, according to a report at huffingtonpost.com. Newspapers will one day feature stories about “wrongful death settlements with the coal companies – such as last summer’s $26 billion verdict against the tobacco companies for lung cancer-and criminal charges of negligent homicide by policymakers and politicians who have openly allowed such a health crisis to take place.”
Politicians fear to act because of the myth that MTR coal mining produces essential jobs for the Appalachian region. Yet this process is so profitable in part because it requires relatively small numbers of workers. As reported at thehill.com, MTR mining is one of the many contributing factors to plummeting coal jobs in the region. Since 1982, the number of coal-related jobs has fallen by about 70 percent in Kentucky and West Virginia.