Yarmuth wants federal study of mountaintop removal

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WYMT) - Two lawmakers have filed legislation that would impose a moratorium on all new mountaintop removal mining permits, while a study looks at the health effects.

With each load of coal, money is being brought into Eastern Kentucky's economy.

However, Congressman John Yarmuth says he is trying to make sure that mountaintop removal is not causing other unwanted side effects.

“It's pretty simple; we don't have the evidence right now to prove that mountain top removal is safe. We have lots of anecdotal evidence that it's dangerous,” said Yarmuth.

He along with Representative Louise Slaughter of New York, who is a Harlan County native, filed the legislation.

They say they want to study the health effects of the controversial mining practice.

If passed, it would lead to a temporary suspension of new mountaintop removal permits, which coal mining officials, say are already hard to obtain.

“I can assure you that the state and federal governments are doing everything they can to impede what we have to do,” said Coal Broker, Trey Zimmerman.

Congressman Hal Rogers released a statement today saying, "Legislating a ban on new permits would serve as a death sentence to our coal dependent counties and cripple our domestic energy production capability."

Mining officials say health problems are not related to mountaintop removal.

“There's no proven science number one; the science they do have is bogus. It is completely skewed toward the environmentalist, which have an axe to grind with anybody that tries to work,” added Zimmerman.

Yet, Yarmuth says it is worth finding out.

“I think we owe it to the people of the region to make sure that we don’t do things that endanger them,” said Yarmuth.

He admits the chances of this bill passing are very slim and may not even get a hearing.

In mountaintop removal, coal companies use heavy machinery and explosives to remove the upper levels of mountains to expose coal layers.

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