Mary Cromer, ACLC’s deputy director and environmental attorney, testifies today before the US House Committee on Natural Resources. The topic is “Environmental Justice for Coal Country: Supporting Communities through the Energy Transition.” Mary’s testimony covers the importance of enforcing SMCRA and how OSMRE can better protect coal communities in the midst of the coal industry’s collapse and the region’s economic transition.
Mary’s testimony begins:
“The issues I am here to talk about are environmental justice issues. Coal mining has taken a
severe toll on coalfield communities across the country. And as coal exits, its impacts are more
and more apparent. You see it in the miners whose years of backbreaking and dangerous work
has left them with disabling impairments. Black lung disease is rampant and much more severe
than ever before. In Central Appalachia, we now see young miners die from severe black lung
disease that was nearly unheard of in past decades. Its impacts are likewise apparent in the
scarred land and polluted streams and rivers left behind by past mining operations. These are
prevalent across coal mining communities in Central Appalachia.
These are also economic transition issues. As the nation’s reliance on coal continues to decline,
the Administration has committed to investing in, rebuilding, and revitalizing these communities
through efforts such as the Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities
and Economic Revitalization. Those initiatives will be critical to addressing the industries’
legacy impacts throughout the coalfields. But it is just as important to seize opportunities that
will help prevent the industry from further burdening coalfield communities with costly
environmental hazards. You cannot rebuild an economy on broken foundations. That is why I
focus my comments on what the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement
(“OSMRE”) should do immediately to protect coalfield communities from the threats posed by
abandoned, unreclaimed coal mines that are being left behind due to the coal industry’s rapid
To read the full testimony, click “Download” below.