Nov 15, 2012
Today Patriot Coal Corporation agreed to cease mountaintop removal mining. In a settlement with citizens’ groups Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, and Sierra Club, Patriot “concluded that the continuation or expansion of surface mining . . . is not in its long term interests.” The groups were represented by Appalachian Mountain Advocates. The company stated, “Patriot recognizes that our mining operations impact the communities in which we operate in significant ways, and we are committed to maximizing the benefits of this agreement for our stakeholders, including our employees and neighbors.” The Appalachian Community Health Emergency (ACHE) Act campaign welcomed the news, adding that all Appalachian communities need protection through passage of the ACHE Act.
Bo Webb, ACHE campaign coordinator, said, “We greatly appreciate the inimitable work of Appalmad, Sierra Club, OVEC and WVHC in bringing about this significant move. However, we cannot afford to rest. Health damage continues to climb as Alpha Natural Resources and other coal companies persist in blasting mountains to ashes, spreading silica dust and elevated levels of PAH toxins across our communities, contaminating our air, our water and our garden soils. This admission and action by Patriot Coal is a clear mandate to the US Congress to immediately pass the ACHE Act into law; providing an immediate pause on all new mountaintop removal permits and a health study to address the effects of MTR on human beings. Until then, mountaintop removers will continue to jeopardize thousands of citizens’ lives while state agencies do nothing to protect us. We’ve been exposed to hazards such as toxic blasting dust for years, and are now experiencing the long term health impacts. I’m tired of watching my family and neighbors die.” The ACHE Act, HR 5959, would place an immediate moratorium on new or expanding mountaintop removal permits until the federal government completes health studies proving that the practice does not endanger human health. Fourteen original co-sponsors introduced in the ACHE Act in the US House of Representatives in June; it now has 27 cosponsors.
“This agreement is a clear admission of the dangers of mountaintop removal coal mining and a key victory for the Appalachian community,” said Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-3). “I commend Patriot Coal for acknowledging the destructive impact of mountaintop removal and for taking steps to protect the communities where it operates. An industry leader finally recognizing that it can be successful without employing this devastating practice is significant progress. Now it’s time for Congress to step up and enact legislation protecting all of Appalachia.”
U.S. Representative Louise M. Slaughter (NY-28), native of Harlan County, Kentucky, said, "When industry representatives admit to the dangers of mountaintop removal mining, there can be no more excuse for inaction or delay. The Appalachian community has fought hard for today's settlement. It is high-time that the federal government join the fight to end mountain top removal and protect additional Appalachian communities from similar threats to the environment and public health."
Debbie Jarrell, Coal River Mountain Watch co-director, said, “For a company to admit that it’s harming the community is a major step, but we can’t wait for all the companies to end mountaintop removal out of the goodness of their hearts. Citizens have pleaded with Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal and others for decades to stop this abominable practice, but our pleas have fallen on deaf ears and government agencies have not ended the practice. I worry for my grandchildren’s health and for the health of everyone in the community. Patriot is showing that a company doesn’t have to threaten its neighbors’ health and that mountaintop removal is unnecessary.”
Mickey McCoy, ACHE coordinator for Kentucky, said, "I pray this action by Patriot Coal to halt the impact of man's destructive abomination upon God's creation might serve as a catalyst for the US Congress to expedite the enactment of HR 5959, reducing cancer death rates and birth defects of children within the human race who reside in Appalachia."
A growing body of research links mountaintop removal to elevated rates of birth defects, cancer, heart disease, and other deadly illnesses. A 2011 study showed that babies born to mothers living near mountaintop removal are 42% more likely to have birth defects, more than twice the increased risk associated with maternal smoking.
As part of the settlement, Patriot, which filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in July, will get extra time to comply with comply with selenium pollution limits. Mountaintop removal has leveled over a million acres of Appalachian Mountains and buried over 2,000 miles of streams.