Congressman John Yarmuth of Louisville has reintroduced a bill that would put a moratorium on mountaintop removal coal mining until the practice’s health effects can be better understood.
The Appalachian Community Health Emergency Act—or ACHE—was first introduced last summer, but died when it was referred to committee. Now, Yarmuth and New York Congresswoman Louise Slaughter are reintroducing the legislation.
The bill would require a comprehensive federal study of the health problems associated with mountaintop removal mining, and place a moratorium on all new permits until the health effects are understood. Several peer-reviewed studies in recent years have linked the controversial mining practice to birth defects and lung, heart and kidney disease. The practice is efficient for coal operators who want to mine thinner seams of coal, and often requires fewer workers than underground mines.
Yarmuth says the risks of mountaintop removal should be studied before any more damage is done.
“There’s really no way in which mountaintop removal has benefited the people of Kentucky,” he said. “It’s only benefited coal operators who have found an easier way and a less expensive way to get coal out of the ground.”
As a Kentucky Congressman from a non-coal mining district, Yarmuth says he’s in a unique position to push for legislation.
“One of the things that history has shown is that when there have been problems with coal mining, whether it’s black lung or coal mine safety, that the impetus for change has come from outside coal mining territory,” he said.
Yarmuth says he’s hopeful that the bill will pass this year. He says he doesn’t expect any other members of the Kentucky delegation to co-sponsor the legislation.