CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin says he hasn't looked into new research that shows that babies born near Appalachian mountaintop removal sites have higher rates of birth defects.
"There's reports every day on something causing some kind of illness," Tomblin told the Gazette on Wednesday.
In a study released last month, West Virginia University researchers found "significantly higher" rates of birth defects in mountaintop removal mining areas in central Appalachia, compared to other mining areas and non-mining areas.
Tomblin, who is acting as governor, said he couldn't offer comment on the study.
"I'm not a researcher," he said. "Obviously it's sad when any child is born with birth defects."
Tomblin made the remarks after holding a Capitol news conference where he called for the passage of federal legislation that would limit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's authority to oversee states' implementation of the federal Clean Water Act.
State lawmakers, as well as representatives of the West Virginia Coal Association, the West Virginia Business and Industry Council, and the United Mine Workers of America, joined Tomblin to show support for the federal legislation.
The new study, published in the journal Environmental Research, examined 1.8 million birth records, using statistics from West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee.