June 19, lawmakers concerned about the health effects on humans from mountaintop removal coal mining submitted the Appalachian Communities Health Emergency (ACHE Act--HR5959) in the U.S. House of Representatives today. Sponsors included: Dennis Kucinich (OH), Louise Slaughter (NY), Maurice Hinchey (NY), Earl Blumenauer (OR), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA), John Yarmuth (KY), Lynn Woolsey (CA), Judy Chu (CA), Raúl Grijalva (AZ), James Moran (VA), Michael Honda (CA), John Conyers (MI), and Keith Ellison (MN).
The proposed legislation would place a moratorium on permitting new and expansion of existing mountaintop removal mines until health studies are conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services to analyze the potential health threats to communities affected by mountaintop
mining. In a news release, Kucinich says,
The Appalachian Communities Health Emergency Act will provide the families in these
communities the answers and the protection they deserve. Mountaintop mining is a practice in which entire mountaintops are blown up in order to access a seam of coal sitting deep inside the mountain. The evidence is growing that toxic chemicals that are safely sequestered in rock inside the mountain, get released when the mountains are turned inside out.
The ACHE Act will stop new mountaintop removal coal mines until the science clearly
demonstrates the mines will not cost these hard working communities their health or their lives. It will also fund some of the best researchers in the world to carry out that science....
One peer-reviewed study found that affected communities, when compared to communities surrounding non-mountaintop removal mines, showed elevated levels of birth defects. Another analysis in the journal, Science, also looked at communities near mountaintop removal coal mining communities. It found that toxic chemicals from the mines are making their way into groundwater, streams, edible fish from those streams, and airborne dust. It found that, as a function of county-level coal production, adult hospitalizations for chronic pulmonary disorders and hypertension are elevated, “as are rates of mortality; lung cancer; and chronic heart, lung, and kidney disease.
A news release provided comments from supporters of the ACHE Act. Author Wendell Berry writes,
These small communities deserve better than to wonder whether their corporate neighbors are poisoning the soil that provides some of their food; the air they breathe; and the water they drink, cook, and bathe with.
As certain people of the Eastern Kentucky coalfields helped me to understand nearly 50 years ago, the fate of the land and the fate of the people are inseparable. Whatever affects the health of the land must affect the health of the people.... From that understanding, it is clear that the measures called for in the ACHE Act should have been enacted many years ago....Granted even a minimal concern for the health of the land and people, and even minimal respect for the findings of science, the need for this bill now is obvious.One of the moving forces behind the bill, longtime community activist Bo Webb, adds,
The Appalachian Communities Health Emergency (ACHE) Act offers an opportunity to all House members to put differences aside and swiftly pass a bill that will protect the health and lives of the unborn.Father John Rausch, a Glenmary priest, commented
I've heard direct testimony from a woman who unknowingly bathed her 3-year old daughter in arsenic laced water from mountaintop removal. I've also heard numerous stories about children developing asthma living near mountaintop removal sites and teens getting tumors and gallstones from mountaintop removal-tainted water. Is it a coincidence that people close to mountaintop removal suffer these sicknesses more frequently? Prudence, a cardinal virtue, tells us to stop and check the process. The Appalachian Communities Health Emergency Act puts health and safety first. Ultimately, it is immoral to sacrifice the health of our children for cheap electricity!The ACHE Act is supported by the national environmental groups Earthjustice and the Sierra Club, as well as West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards.