Editorial - Congress should pass MTR bill
Published: Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 18:06
Yesterday, a group of Democrats in the House of Representatives proposed a bill requiring all federal agencies to stop granting permits for new mountaintop removal coal mines until further research is done on the health impacts of this controversial practice.
This piece of legislation, dubbed the "Appalachian Communities Health Emergency Act", was co-sponsored by 13 members of the House, including Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) and Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio).
Although a complete moratorium on mountaintop removal will almost certainly be criticized as an unnecessary big-government intrusion by coal lobbyists, the interest in preventing innocent communities from the potentially dangerous consequences of this practice far outweighs any economic benefits gained from it. Congress should act swiftly on this proposal and pass the bill.
Considering the fact numerous studies, including several done on West Virginian communities, have demonstrated the possible health risks posed by mountaintop removal mining, this really should be a no-brainer.
West Virginia University researcher and professor Michael Hendryx has been at the forefront of the effort to understand the relationship between mountaintop removal mining and the public health.
His research has consistently suggested individuals living in the vicinity of mountaintop removal sites are at increased risk for a number of health complications.
One study found mountaintop removal communities have a 63 percent higher risk of birth defects than other communities. Additionally, residents of these mountaintop removal communities were found to suffer from higher rates of heart disease, respiratory problems, kidney disease and some types of cancer.
At the very least, these findings warrant further investigation into the effects of mountaintop removal mining. If subsequent studies find this form of mining is contributing to health problems in the communities surrounding the mine sites, it will be clear this practice should be completely banned.
However, if the new studies conclusively establish mountaintop removal mining isn’t hurting the public health, the moratorium will be lifted and the coal companies can continue their work.
This approach is the most logical one. It’s hard to understand how the continuation of this practice can be justified despite evidence of its possible negative impacts. No amount of money is worth endangering the lives of West Virginians whose only crime is living near a mountaintop removal mine.