CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Peer-reviewed scientific health research in mountaintop-removal communities of West Virginia and Kentucky clearly indicates the need for a health study to determine the exact cause for excess health problems and declining life expectancy where MTR is conducted.
A recent coal-funded project couldn't refute that need, not even with $15 million of coal money in its pocket. The only question left is: Why would anyone oppose a health study?
Elevated rates of toxins and fine-particulate silica dust are found in the air we breathe and in our garden soils. These toxins are carcinogens. Fine particulates infect the lungs as well as other parts of the body. These same toxins and dust are present on blasted MTR sites.
The U.S. Geological Survey has stated that these toxins are not coming from an upwind power plant or from anyone's home heating. Their conclusion indicates the toxins are coming from the MTR sites.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that detonating millions of pounds of ammonium nitrate and diesel fuel mix every day, six days a week for 15 years or so, directly above people's homes and communities, is going to make them sick sooner or later. We very likely are now witnessing the long-term health effects of mountaintop removal blasting for mining coal.
If someone is engaged in an endeavor that causes harm to another human being, but is not aware of causing that harm, that is one thing; but to be shown that you are causing harm, or at least shown most likely that you are the cause of that harm, is an altogether different thing. Once made aware, there becomes a responsibility to immediately cease activity and help determine the cause of the harm. Inaction is not an excuse and cannot be tolerated.
The coal industry has refused to accept responsibility, but some affected citizens have formed the Appalachian Community Health Emergency campaign, and with the support of a number of U.S. Congress members we are acting.
A bill has recently been introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., calling for an immediate pause for new MTR permits while a health study is conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to determine the cause of the growing health crisis in MTR communities. Passage of this bill will allow mining companies to continue working on their current permitted sites with no jobs lost and no disruptions. The bill is HR526, The Appalachian Community Health Emergency Act. It can be viewed along with the peer-reviewed research at www.acheact.org.
As West Virginians who care about the wellbeing of our citizens and our beloved state, I ask my fellow Mountaineers to respectfully call their House members and implore them to add their signatures of support to HR526, The ACHE Act; and to pass this bill into law quickly as a matter of the utmost urgency.
Webb is a longtime crusader against coal industry problems in Southern West Virginia.