WASHINGTON: Coal production across Appalachia could be shuttered by a push to halt all new mountaintop removal mining operations until the health effects have been investigated, the Kentucky Coal Association warned lawmakers on Tuesday.
But the cautionary note did little to slow Democrats, who held the first federal hearing on whether the surface coal mining operation contributes to an elevated risk of birth defects, cancer and premature death among residents living near large-scale Appalachia surface coal mines.
“Should we just be banning all mountaintop removal mining?” Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-California, asked of the controversial practice that often involves blasting apart steep slopes to expose buried seams of coal.
Even the witnesses, who pleaded with lawmakers for a health study, paused when they heard the idea. Donna Branham, a retired West Virginia nurse, said that any ban couldn’t happen overnight and that there would have to be economic alternatives.
Yet Carl Shoupe, a former underground miner who is already urging Kentucky to bar surface mining around two historic coal towns in Eastern Kentucky, argued that serious health effects are more likely to affect residents near mountain mining sites.
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