Third District Congressman John Yarmuth has signed on to a bill that would require an analysis of the health effects of mountaintop removal coal mining. The bill would also put a moratorium on new mountaintop removal mines until the practice is proven to be safe.

The bill is called the Appalachian Communities Health Emergency Act, or ACHE. It would require several comprehensive studies of the health of people living near mountaintop removal mines. Until the Secretary of Health and Human Services concludes that mountaintop removal has no health risks for nearby communities, it would suspend the practice.

Yarmuth is the bill’s only Kentucky sponsor, and he says he doesn’t expect the rest of the state’s delegation to join him.

“Anytime significant steps have been taken to protect miners or the environment or neighbors of mining, it’s been done because of an impetus from outside that region,” he said. “And that’s because coal companies have had a lock on the citizens, on the economy and on the media in those areas.”

The bill has 13 sponsors, all Democrats, and Yarmuth acknowledges it probably won’t move very quickly through the Republican-controlled House.

“Well, in this Congress it probably has very little chance,” he said. “But part of the reason I wanted to support the bill and the sponsors did, was to call attention to this. I mean, this is not a benign practice. It’s not benign in any respect, environmentally or in terms of its health impact.”

Recent studies have shown connections between mountaintop removal and birth defects, as well as cancer and lung and kidney disease.