Mountaintop Removal Health Review Halted

Aug 23, 2017

The US Dept. of Interior’s Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) has suspended a review of community health impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining. On Aug. 18, OSMRE told the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to cease all work on the review. The Academies announced OSMRE’s directive on August 21 and continued with scheduled meetings in Kentucky that day and the next. The $1-million study, announced by OSMRE on Aug. 3, 2016, was to take two years and came at the request of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP). WVDEP made the request in 2015 after mounting pressure from the Appalachian Community Health Emergency (ACHE) campaign and allied groups to halt new mountaintop removal coal mining permits. Over 30 peer-reviewed scientific studies demonstrate public health impacts from the process. In West Virginia alone, coal companies detonate over 1.5 million pounds of explosives per day, expelling fine dust into neighboring communities.


"In 2015, after years of struggle to expose the health crisis taking place in mountaintop removal (MTR) communities, the ACHE campaign successfully organized the People’s Foot Rally in Charleston, W. Va.,” said Bo Webb, ACHE campaign coordinator. “We forced the Governor to acknowledge MTR health concerns and ask the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement to review the health research showing fine particulate dust from MTR work sites was the cause of escalating rates of cancer, birth defects, and heart and lung diseases in MTR communities. We at ACHE were hopeful that finally our efforts to save innocent lives and family heartache were paying off.  With the introduction of the ACHE Act in Congress and the health review by NAS, it appeared that mountaintop removal blasting of our mountains would come to an end. But now the Trump administration has ordered NAS to stop the review. This proclamation that it is okay to kill children of Appalachia is a favor to outlaw coal companies that practice the dirtiest type of coal mining in the history of the world.  Any members of Congress, especially those from West Virginia who refuse to speak out on behalf of our Appalachian children demanding the NAS review to continue, join in denying our children’s right to live."


In their announcement, the Academies said that the Dept. of Interior had “begun an agency-wide review of its grants and cooperative agreements in excess of $100,000, largely as a result of the Department’s changing budget situation.”  They also said, “The National Academies believes this is an important study and we stand ready to resume it as soon as the Department of the Interior review is completed.  We are grateful to our committee members for their dedication to carrying forward with this study.”