Suits challenge mines over public health impacts

The U.S. Corps of Engineers continues to ignore a growing body of scientific evidence suggesting that mountaintop removal mining could be making people who live near mining sites sick in a number of ways. Mountaintop removal has been linked to increases in cancer rates, birth defects and higher mortality rates, among other things.

In a pair of?recent lawsuits?brought against mountaintop removal mines in Kentucky and West Virginia, Appalachian Mountain Advocates is attempting to force the Corps to follow the National Environmental Policy Act’s requirement to determine whether permits it issues may have the potential to “affect public health and safety.” If so, the Corps is supposed to conduct an in-depth Environmental Impact Statement.

But, despite more than a dozen peer-reviewed studies indicating serious health impact on nearby residents, concerns expressed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and a number of public comments raising the public health issue and other environmental concerns, the Corps concluded the impact would be insignificant and that an EIS would not be necessary.

In issuing these permits, the Corps ignored the potential for human health impact and the potential for both increased conductivity and selenium pollution downstream from the mining areas.

NEPA sets a very low threshold for when an EIS should be conducted. Despite this, the Corps routinely issues FONSI statements (Finding of No Significant Impact) for valley fill permits. Anyone who has ever seen a valley fill knows the Corps must have an extremely skewed view of “significant impact” to make this claim time after time.

Appalachian Mountain Advocates is representing the Sierra Club, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and Coal River Mountain Watch in these cases.

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