Support bill to study mining's health impacts

Bo Webb of Coal River Valley, W.Va., is founder and campaign director of Appalachian Community Health Emergency.
Bo Webb of Coal River Valley, W.Va., is founder and campaign director of Appalachian Community Health Emergency.

The Herald-Leader editorial is spot on. We need leadership, not political kowtowing to the coal industry.

The Clean Water Act was passed in 1972. The Surface Mine Control Reclamation Act was passed in 1977. Neither have addressed, or have stopped, the human health hazard posed by mountaintop removal coal mining.

Since passing the reclamation act, there has been a nearly constant debate on regulatory interpretation producing rulings, followed by litigation on rulings.

Citizens have marched to their state capitals demanding relief. There have been rallies, protests and arrests.

The coal industry and its supporters, such as Sen. Mitch McConnell, have arrogantly claimed there is a "war on coal," but in reality there is a war perpetrated by the coal industry on the people that live beneath mountaintop removal sites.

It is shameful for politicians to continue to support this unjustifiable act of blasting mountains with explosives, creating dust clouds of ultra-fine toxic particulates that people are then forced to breathe.

These same politicians would never support an act of terror that unleashed dust clouds of ultra-fine particulates in our cities, yet McConnell stands silently when his constituents travel to Washington D.C., to seek relief from those who bomb the mountains directly above their homes. Appalachia is witnessing the long-term health effects of people exposed to nanoparticles of silica dust and PAH toxins from the daily blasting of millions of pounds of diesel fuel and ammonium nitrate explosives.

That is why HR 526, the Appalachian Community Health Emergency Act is so important. It was introduced on Feb. 6 by Kentucky Rep. John Yarmuth, a real leader who we can all be proud of. The ACHE Act does not rely on interpretations of the clean water or mine reclamation acts. It recognizes the health impacts of mountaintop removal and offers a common-sense investigation and resolution to this developing tragedy.

Congress must pass HR 526 without delay.

Read the bill at www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr526/text or go to www.acheact.org.

At issue: May 7 Herald-Leader editorial, "More leadership, fewer platitudes: McConnell antics no help to E. Ky."

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