Coal Tattoo

Is it really all that surprising that, as we reported in the Gazette this morning, Alpha Natural Resources is trying hard to keep any discussion of West Virginia University’s studies linking mountaintop removal to human health problems out of a pending lawsuit over one of the company’s Clean Water Act permits?

I mean, come on … nobody else — except the people who live near mountaintop removal operations — wants these studies to be part of a public conversation about the future of the Appalachian coal industry.  Sen. Jay Rockefeller won’t hold a Science Committee hearing on the subject. Sen. Joe Manchin doesn’t have time to talk common sense about what these studies show. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin doesn’t want anything to do with the topic.   Rep. Nick Rahall, while he did agree to an interview on the subject, can’t figure out what agency of the government should examine the issue.

And the only time you see much in most of the state’s media outlets on this topic, it’s to allow coal industry officials to spread half-truths and misinformation about the findings of WVU’s Michael Hendryx and his colleagues.

So maybe it’s not that big a deal that Alpha doesn’t want these health studies considered in the context of a challenge to its Highland Reylas permit … the really interesting thing now will be to see if U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers — who has presided over a bunch of significant mountaintop removal cases, and shown a willingness to listen to the science from both sides in those matters — will allow these issues to be heard in his courtroom.