While the country is absorbed in the looming deadline over raising the debt limit, the House of Representatives this week is busy killing as much environmental regulation as they can. When they said they wanted to get rid of “job killing” regulations, what they should have said is they want to get rid of “life saving” regulations.
The Interior and Environmental Protection Agency spending bill for fiscal year 2012 contains policy riders added by panel Republicans to thwart White House-backed initiatives on everything from the EPA's regulation of greenhouse gas emissions to conservation efforts in the Grand Canyon. It would halt new regulations on mountaintop removal mining and prevent the Fish and Wildlife Service from listing new species under the Endangered Species Act.
Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee's Interior, said
"My intense opposition to the EPA's efforts to control nearly every industry in this country is no secret," said Simpson in remarks on the House floor Monday. "The EPA's unrestrained effort to regulate greenhouse gases, and the pursuit of an overly aggressive regulatory agenda, are signs of an agency that has lost its bearing. Wherever I go, the biggest complaint I hear about the federal government is about how the EPA is creating economic uncertainty and killing jobs."
What he should have said was, “these regulations keep industries from killing people.” Not these regulations kill jobs.
This legislation is being proposed in spite of a study released last night showing mountain top removal increases cancer cases in the communities surrounding the practice.
Among the 1.2 million American citizens living in mountaintop removal mining counties in central Appalachia, an additional 60,000 cases of cancer are directly linked to the federally sanctioned strip-mining practice.
Hendryx, Associate Professor at the Department of Community Medicine and Director of West Virginia Rural Health Research Center at West Virginia University said, "This significantly higher risk was found after control for age, sex, smoking, occupational exposure and family cancer history. The study adds to the growing evidence that mountaintop mining environments are harmful to human health."
Soot from coal-fired power plants kills an estimated 13,000 Americans prematurely and is responsible for $100 billion in healthcare costs. Old, outdated coal plants are also the single biggest source of mercury pollution, which causes birth defects and developmental damage in young children.
Finally, coal plants are our largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Every ton of coal burned generates three tons of carbon dioxide pollution. The 150 new coal-fired power plants proposed in 2002 would have emitted an estimated 585 million tons of CO2 pollution annually for the next 50 years.
The US House of Representatives is also currently trying to pass a bill (HR 2018) that would actually gut the Clean Water Act.
In a four-page legal analysis (pdf), EPA said the measure (H.R. 2018 (pdf)) sponsored by House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) and ranking member Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) "would overturn almost 40 years of federal legislation by preventing EPA from protecting public health and water quality."
I have to point out a Democrat supporter of the coal industry here:
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is more than just a supporter of his state's influential coal producers -- he's a full-fledged industry insider.
On his financial disclosures for 2009 and 2010, Manchin reported significant earnings from Enersystems Inc., a coal brokerage that he helped run before his political star rose. In the 19 months before winning his Senate seat in a hard-fought special election, Manchin reported operating income of $1,363,916 from Enersystems. His next disclosure showed $417,255 in Enersystems income.
The White House has threatened to use veto power to block the bill.
“This is the most anti-environmental House of Representatives in history," said Rep. Henry Waxman, ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
I have said many times regulations do not arise out of a vacuum. They come about after years of studies that show they are needed to protect people’s lives, and then after years of fighting industry to get them enacted. We may undo decades of hard work and persistence in this country with one legislative session if this congress has their way.
Appeal from people who live in the Appalachian Mountains:
We appeal to the nation on behalf of our children and grandchildren.
We appeal to our fellow Appalachians and central coalfield communities; we appeal to all civil rights and environmental organizations across the nation; we appeal to all religious and faith communities, and all those who believe in the sanctity of life; we appeal to those who believe in the rule of law and democracy.
After a decade of endless education and media campaigns, conferences and workshops, lobbying, and appealing to our elected officials, we have reached a moment of no return.
The spiraling health crisis in the central Appalachian coalfields has reached a breaking point.
We appeal to the nation to intervene and bring an end to the staggering human costs and mounting death toll from one of the most egregious health and civil rights violations in our times.
As central Appalachian coalfield residents living under the lethal fallout of mountaintop removal mining operations, we call on President Obama, Department of Health and Human Services chief Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder to enact an immediate moratorium on all mountaintop removal mining operations in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia until the Center for Disease Control and/or other federal regulatory agencies make a complete assessment of the spiraling health and human rights crisis related to mountaintop removal mining, especially as it pertains to birth defects and cancer corridors, and the Department of Justice makes a thorough investigation into any related criminal negligence or child abuse connected to mountaintop removal mining.
We can no longer endure this reckless abuse of our rights, and our lives. No American should.
August 3rd will mark the 34th anniversary of the federal sanctioning of mountaintop removal mining, when President Jimmy Carter signed the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. Calling it a "watered down" bill, President Carter admitted at the Rose Garden signing that the Act was "in many ways, a disappointing effort" and "allows the mining companies to cut off the tops of Appalachian mountains to reach entire seams of coal."
After organizing a rigorous 10-year campaign to abolish strip-mining, outraged by this duplicitous compromise to grant federal sanctioning of mountaintop removal mining, the Appalachian Coalition of coalfield residents and environmental groups called the SMCRA a "blatant travesty" and a "betrayal."
Three decades later, that betrayal has had devastating and deadly consequences.
Yet, while EPA administrator Lisa Jackson has openly admitted the unacceptable health consequences of mountaintop removal, the Obama administration has chosen to follow an admittedly failed compliance policy and 40-year record of criminally neglectful regulatory practices that have left central Appalachian communities in desperate ruin. Numerous scientific studies have confirmed that "mining permits are being issued despite the preponderance of scientific evidence that impacts are pervasive and irreversible and that mitigation cannot compensate for the losses."
While providing less than 5-8 percent of our national coal production, the millions of pounds of daily explosives detonated for mountaintop removal operations in West Virginia, Kentucky, southwest Virginia and eastern Tennessee have resulted in nothing less than the unrecognized reality of regulated child abuse and manslaughter. A recent study, "The association between mountaintop mining and birth defects among live births in central Appalachia, 1996-2003," has provided irrefutable evidence that six out of seven types of birth defects—circulatory respiratory, central nervous system, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, urogenital and "other"—related to contaminants released into nearby environments from mountaintop removal operations are too high a price to pay for an unnecessary way of mining. Permitting for this type of mining has exacerbated since the studied years of 1996-2003 and so have the impacts on the health of all our people.
As we make this appeal, we brace ourselves for another round of nerve-wracking explosives being detonated above our homes in the mountains of West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. Outside our doors, pulverized silica and coal dust laden with diesel fuel and ammonium nitrate explosives hovers in the air, along with the residual of heavy metals that once lay dormant underground. The mountains just above our homes, once a thriving forest, have been blasted into piles of toxic dust and poison water run off. All is gone now. It is all dead.
Who do you think will be next?
We appeal to everyone in the nation to join us in demanding an immediate moratorium on all mountaintop removal mining operations in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia until the Center for Disease Control and/or other federal regulatory agencies make a complete assessment of the spiraling health and human rights crisis related to mountaintop removal mining, especially as it pertains to birth defects and cancer corridors, and the Department of Justice makes a thorough investigation into any related criminal negligence or child abuse connected to mountaintop removal mining.
We can no longer endure this reckless abuse of our rights, and our lives. No American should.
Once again, the stakes are too high for our movement to continue to delay, to debate, to engage in endless lobbying of a US Congress intent on dismantling the EPA.
Mountaintop removal is a crime and it must be dealt with like any criminal enterprise in our country.
We must take this unprecedented health and human rights crisis directly to the President of the United States.
We appeal to all of our fellow Appalachians, coalfield residents across the nation, and all non-profit organizations and environmental and citizens groups working and fundraising on mountaintop removal mining to join us on the frontlines of this nightmare fallout and share our sense of urgency and our determination to end this outrageous injustice once and for all.
We appeal to everyone in the nation to join us in demanding that the Obama Administration issue an immediate moratorium on all mountaintop removal mining operations in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia until the Center for Disease Control and/or other federal regulatory agencies make a complete assessment of the spiraling health and human rights crisis related to mountaintop removal mining, especially as it pertains to birth defects and cancer corridors, and the Department of Justice makes a thorough investigation into any related criminal negligence or child abuse connected to mountaintop removal mining.