Citizen Groups Win Temporary Halt to Destruction at Kentucky Coal Mine

Simultaneous appeal calls for officials to acknowledge and address health risks during permitting of mountaintop removal mining projects

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–September 3, 2013.  Today a U.S. District Court decided leave in place an order it issued late last Friday requiring Leeco Inc. to halt mountaintop removal mining at the Stacy Branch mine near the town of Vicco in Eastern Kentucky. Kentuckians For The Commonwealth and Sierra Club, represented by Earthjustice, have appealed the District Court’s August 23 decision rejecting their claims and also asked for an injunction to ensure that the environment and public health are not harmed while they are arguing their appeal in the Sixth Circuit. The Court agreed to issue a temporary injunction while it considers the groups’ request for a longer pause.

The District Court ruling that the groups are appealing allows the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to ignore human health risks when it decides whether to permit a mountaintop removal coal mine and approves the agency’s decision to allow coal companies to bury streams based on the company’s promise to try to enhance other streams in the state.

The following are statements from plaintiffs and attorneys in the case:

Neil Gormley, Earthjustice attorney:
“There is strong and growing evidence that Appalachian people who live near mountaintop removal mines are at increased risk for cancer, heart disease, and other serious health problems, but the Corps of Engineers ignored those risks here. We are optimistic that the Court of Appeals will agree that federal agencies can’t let companies blow up mountains without acknowledging and addressing public health risks.”

Alice Whitaker, Director of the Lotts Creek Community School and Wellness Program and member of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth:
“I’m quite concerned since we are spending a lot of time and effort and money trying to make this area healthy. This congressional district is listed as one of the unhealthiest in the country. If we’re going to make any progress we’re going to have to get to the root cause of our health problems. One of the root causes is Appalachian citizens being exposed to mountaintop removal mining garbage.”

Mary Cromer, Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center (KY) attorney:
“More and more scientific reports are being published linking proximity to large-scale surface mines to numerous health effects, including lung and kidney disease, cancers, and birth defects. We are appealing this case to the Sixth Circuit, because the law requires that human health effects be considered when these large-scale mines are permitted. We are hopeful that on review, the Sixth Circuit will overturn the District Court’s ruling and ensure that the Administration consider the health of the nearby residents before allowing these large-scale mines to go forward.”

Lane Boldman, Sierra Club Kentucky Chapter:
“Mountaintop removal mining not only poisons our drinking water and destroys our land, but is linked to serious and deadly illnesses including cancer, heart, lung and kidney diseases. The Corps has consistently failed in their responsibility to consider all of the environmental impacts of this dangerous form of mining, leaving Appalachian families to pay the price. We hope the Court of Appeals will agree that our federal agencies have a responsibility to safeguard our water and our health.”

Read the appeal court filing.