Jan 152015
 

Many of the cities and states which fostered our Industrial Revolution grew to prominence because they were situated on rich coal deposits. Coal mining, including surface mining, was common in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and throughout the Appalachian region. However, many of these mines were improperly abandoned when they stopped producing, leaving behind residual waste pits and piles of debris tailings exposed to the elements. Sulfuric Acid is created when water and air oxidize the metal sulfides in the surrounding rock or tailings of coal and metal mines. This acidic compound kills most organic life as it seeps into the ground and drains into lakes and streams. Also, since many coal mines were situated below sea level, pumps were required to remove water that accumulated in these mines when they were producing. This pumping was halted after these mines closed but the acidic water that filled many underground caverns is now migrating into our waterways. Environmentalists say the formation of sulfuric acid is unavoidable and irreversible once acid-generating rock is crushed and exposed to moisture and oxygen. This process can continue for thousands of years until the sulfide minerals in the rock are exhausted. Roman-era mines have been discovered which are still producing acid drainage. Experts say the high cost of cleaning up or containing acid mine drainage necessitates assistance to communities experiencing the aftermath of mining operations concluded long ago.

Pending legislation:

S.222 & H.R.488 – To amend the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 to clarify that uncertified States and Indian tribes have the authority to use certain payments for certain noncoal reclamation projects

I oppose reforming current acid mine drainage policy and wish to defeat S.222 & H.R.488

I support authorizing uncertified states and Indian tribes to use certain unexpended and unappropriated balance amounts for acid mine drainage abatement and treatment, and noncoal abandoned mine land reclamation; providing for payments for filling voids and sealing tunnels and entryways of noncoal mines as well as coal mines, and wish to pass S.222 & H.R.488

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Each year, miners use millions of gallons of cyanide to extract metals such as gold, copper and zinc from rock and ore. Hundreds of tons of cyanide are sometimes needed at a single site to carry out this process. Using the open-pit method, ore is piled into pits and sprayed with cyanide to separate metal from rock. These cyanide ponds often result in leakage or spillage which may contaminate surrounding watersheds. Other methods immerse ore into cyanide-filled tanks which are less prone to releases. However, just one teaspoon of a 2% cyanide solution can kill a person while smaller doses can kill wildlife and fish. Since 1970, it is estimated that accidents by our hard-rock mining industry have resulted in billions of gallons of cyanide being leaked and spilled into the environment. Often, local hazardous waste laws do not regulate the use of such large amounts of this highly toxic substance. Advocates claim the use, transport and disposal of millions of gallons of cyanide hold disastrous potential for many American communities. Such accidents have destroyed entire river ecosystems in Idaho, Montana and Colorado when this deadly chemical breeched containment. Since 1990, releases of cyanide from mining accidents have most often occurred from tailings-dam mishaps (76%), followed by pipeline failures (18%) and transportation accidents (6%). Critics claim there is no way to ensure the safe use of cyanide in mining. They also claim there are alternatives to cyanide which are available, such as the non-toxic cost-effective Haber Gold Process.

Pending Legislation: None

I oppose reforming current cyanide mining policy

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill to increase safety regulations for the use, storage, transportation and disposal of cyanide used in hard-rock mining operations

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill to prohibit the use of cyanide in hard-rock mining operations

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Although most of our miners operate heavy machinery and work in dangerous environments, underground miners face more health and safety challenges than do surface miners. These dangers may include inadequate ventilation, structural collapse, coal dust inhalation, and methane and dust explosions. Methane, released during the coal extraction process, is one of the most daunting mine safety concerns. This gas can explode in concentrations as small as 5%. West Virginia’s 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine disaster, which took the lives of 29 Americans, is thought to have been caused by such an explosion. Safety procedures dictate that, should an explosion occur, miners must escape to safety rooms which contain several days of emergency supplies and rations. Most, but not all, modern mines have extensive safety procedures, health standards and worker education and training programs designed to reduce the incidence and severity of mining accidents. These programs have led to safety improvements in both underground and open pit mining operations.

Pending Legislation:

S.805 & H.R.1373 – Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act of 2013

I oppose reforming current mine safety policy and wish to defeat S.805 & H.R.1373

I support authorizing independent investigations of mine accidents involving 3 or more deaths; improving compliance of mine safety and health laws; requiring mine owners to maintain records of purchases of rock dust (to counter coal dust combustibility); empowering miners to raise safety concerns; allowing immediate family members of victims of every mine disaster to name a representative to participate in government investigations of those disasters; improving safety equipment and miner training; enacting criminal penalties of 5 years imprisonment for retaliation against miners (or their families) who exercise their rights; requiring the Mine Safety Health Administration to develop a staffing succession plan to ensure that it retains sufficient numbers of trained personnel, and wish to pass S.805 & H.R.1373

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Mountaintop removal (MTR) mining, sometimes called strip mining, is a surface mining method which removes a mountain’s summit to expose its coal deposits beneath. Since it began in 1970, MTR mining has become the most common method of coal mining in our Appalachian region which includes West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. In this process, mountaintops are first cleared of forest, vegetation and topsoil. Powerful explosives are then used to blast as much as 800 feet off the top of a mountain. Huge mechanical shovels, called draglines, are used to dig through the layer of rock to access the coal seam. Excess rock and soil is hauled away on trucks and usually deposited into adjacent valleys. Huge amounts of chemically-treated water are used to wash the extracted coal to prepare it for market. The resulting waste water is laden with coal dust, carcinogenic chemicals and harmful metals such as mercury and arsenic. This toxic slurry mix often migrates into the water supplies upon which residents depended. Although mining companies are required to restore these mountaintops when finished, advocates say these measures are often inadequate, saying these sites remain infertile long after miners have left. MTR mining is relatively inexpensive since it requires a much smaller workforce than conventional mining, but it is very costly in terms of human and environmental damage. Opponents say MTR mining is responsible for annihilating ecosystems, polluting waterways and causing great harm to the Appalachian people. Many studies have shown that compared to their peers, these Americans suffer more than a 50% higher rate of cancers and more than a 40% higher rate of birth defects from contaminated water and airborne dust and toxins produced by MTR mining. The monetary public health costs associated with this human tragedy are estimated to be at least $75 billion each year. Critics say this method of mining would not be as nearly profitable if companies were held responsible for polluting the air, water and lands of these American communities.

Pending Legislation:

H.R.526 – ACHE Act

I oppose reforming current mountaintop removal mining policy and wish to defeat H.R.526

I support conducting or supporting comprehensive studies on the health impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining on individuals in the communities of Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Virginia; publishing a determination of whether such mining presents any health risks to individuals in those communities; prohibiting issuance of an authorization for any mountaintop removal coal mining project (or expansion) until and unless a determination that such mining does not present any health risk to individuals in the surrounding communities; imposing requirements for continuous monitoring of air, noise, and water pollution and frequent monitoring of soil until a determination by the Secretary of Health and Human Services is made, and wish to pass H.R.526

 Posted by at 12:00 am