Agencies Dodge Responsibility for Human Cost of Mountaintop-Removal Coal Mining – by Mary Anne Hitt (Huffington Post – March 14, 2014)

Mary Anne Hitt is director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.

This week, we got some disappointing news – a judge ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers isn’t responsible for considering the health effects of coal pollution when it issues permits to fill valleys with rubble from mountaintop-removal coal mines. As Appalachian residents continue to suffer every year from well-documented health problems linked to mountaintop removal, this decision highlights a deadly loophole that requires long-overdue action from the White House and Congress.

Responsibility is a tricky thing. In our daily lives we work to be conscientious of our bills, our taxes, our family lives and a myriad of other duties that come up every day. But what happens when say, no one in the house takes responsibility for the dirty dishes? They keep piling up and things get pretty nasty.

Now, instead of dishes, think about what happens when no one chooses to take responsibility for the terrible effects coal pollution has on public health. From soot and smog to asthma, cancer and heart attacks, things go from nasty to life-threatening.

That’s exactly what’s happening right now in Kentucky where a court ruled (PDF) in essence that the Army Corps doesn’t need to consider the health problems caused by mountaintop-removal coal mining because the Corps is only responsible for issuing permits that allow stream destruction associated with the mining, not the mining operation itself, even though the Corps admits that the mining operation could not go forward without the permit it issued.The crux of this ruling is that no one is currently taking responsibility for mining pollution that poses a serious threat to our health, waterways and communities.

Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps and the Kentucky Division of Mining Permits all have the ability to protect our health, but they’re currently all saying “it’s not my problem.”

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