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Lethal Fallout from Mining Spurs a Mountaintop Removal Moratorium Campaign to End to the Humanitarian Crisis in Appalachia

Advocacy groups are calling for an immediate moratorium on all mountaintop removal mining operations until the federal government can mitigate the spiraling humanitarian crisis.

“Living in a mountaintop mining area was a bigger risk for birth defects than smoking.”–Dr. Michael Hendryx, West Virginia University

Hailing a shocking new study on birth defects related to mountaintop removal mining in central Appalachia as a historic shift and emergency clarion call in the long-time campaign to abolish the devastating strip-mining practice, internationally acclaimed coalfield leaders Maria Gunnoe, Bo Webb and Mickey McCoy, among others who live directly below the lethal fallout of mining operations, have issued a new appeal to all Appalachian and national civil rights and environmental organizations engaged in or fundraising for efforts in coalfield advocacy to join together and demand an immediate moratorium on all mountaintop removal mining operations until the federal government can effectively mitigate a spiraling humanitarian crisis.

A national petition campaign, Stand With Appalachia, has also been launched by Change.org to join forces with the Appalachian activists’ “MTR Moratorium Now” campaign.

“Appalachian communities beneath and near mountaintop operations are facing an unacceptable health crisis,” 2010 Purpose Prize-winner Bo Webb declared. “In spite of the growing scientific evidence connecting mountaintop removal to the demise of human health, the US Congress refuses to acknowledge the seriousness of this problem. That has to change. People all around us of all ages are dying of cancer. This health study proves that we do not have time to waste debating this issue in Congress any longer.”

According to Dr. Michael Hendryx of West Virginia University, one of the authors of last month’s breakthrough health care study in mountaintop removal mining areas:

For the years 2000-2003, mothers who smoked during pregnancy had a 17% higher risk of a baby born with a birth defect (compared to mothers who didn’t smoke). For mothers living in mountaintop mining areas, the risk was 42% higher (compared to mothers who lived in non-mining areas). For babies born specifically with defects of the circulatory or respiratory system, smoking increased risk by 17%, and living in a mountaintop mining area increased risk by 181%. Living in a mountaintop mining area was a bigger risk for birth defects than smoking.

“People are dying because of mountaintop removal mining and it MUST END NOW,” said Maria Gunnoe, the 2009 North American Goldman Prize winner. “Anyone who supports mountaintop removal coal mining is actively supporting the multi-generational murder of the Appalachian people. As the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection prepares to permit Jupiter Coal Company another site behind my home in Bob White, WV, I beg of everyone who has a voice to use it to call on the Obama Administration and demand an immediate moratorium on all mountaintop removal operations. We, as US Citizen,s are being murdered to flip on the lights: Where is the outrage? We must end mountaintop removal now–-for some, it’s already too late.”

Mountaintop removal mining provides less than 5-8 percent of all national coal production.

As they prepare for an emergency press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on Wednesday, July 13th, to counter an extremist bill being fast-tracked in the House of Representatives by Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) to strip the EPA of regulatory powers of mountaintop removal, the coalfield leaders called on other Appalachian, anti-mountaintop removal and clean energy groups, national environmental and civil rights organization, religious and faith communities, and health and human service organizations, to sign on to their Appeal to Action for an immediate moratorium and investigation into health and human rights abuses. According to an internal EPA legal analysis of HB 2018, Rahall’s bill would overturn 40 years of federal legislation on health and water quality.

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