Friday, May 5, 2017

Tell the government to deny the Letcher County Prison near the toxic mine remains

When coal companies began blowing up mountains to increase their profits, they claimed the newly-flattened landscape could be a boon for business. After all, there'd be more space to build.

It hasn't turned out that way. Not many businesses want to house their employees on top of former mountaintop removal mines when proximity to such mines has been shown to increase cardiovascular disease and cancer rates.1

Yet one employer is oddly eager: the federal government. Tell the Federal Bureau of Prisons to cancel its plans for the troubled Letcher County Prison.

Yes, the government wants to build a federal prison surrounded by toxic mountaintop removal mines, despite the health risks to guards, visitors, and especially the prisoners themselves, who would be stuck there 24/7.

The water supply remains a special concern, as mountaintop removal has left a legacy of contaminated streams throughout Appalachia.2

The project would chop down forest habitat on the site and threaten the nearby Lilley Cornett Woods, one of the few old-growth stands left in the eastern United States.3 The increased traffic, noise, and light pollution could further imperil several endangered species, including Indiana bats and gray bats.4

It's pretty clear that people should not be confined in an area surrounded by gas wells and old, exposed coal mines. Tell the government to deny the Letcher County Prison and put that money to better use. The deadline for public comments is May 8th!

In order to move forward on this project, there must be a full analysis of each of these factors and a plan to mitigate the impacts. However, the most cost-effective and health-conscious option is the No Action Alternative: cancelling this unsafe prison proposal.

-The SierraRise team

The petition reads like this:

Cancel the Letcher County Prison Project

Once again, the Bureau of Prisons has failed to adequately evaluate the environmental and health risks posed by the Letcher County Prison proposal, including but not limited to:

* the proximity to current and former mining sites and the likely health effects on prisoners, guards, and visitors

* the difficulty in finding a suitable water supply

* potential harm to endangered species, such as Indiana and gray bats, by destroying forest habitat and increasing traffic, noise, and light pollution

* the likelihood that the prison's population would constitute an environmental justice community


1. (accessed 3 May 2017). "Human Health Impacts." Appalachian Voices.
2. T. Lindberga, Bernhardtb, E. ... and Giulioa, R. (2011). "Cumulative impacts of mountaintop mining on an Appalachian watershed." Duke University.
3. Gaston, I. (March 2017). "2017 Draft Supplemental Revised Final Environmental Impact Statement For Proposed United States Penitentiary and Federal Prison Camp." Federal Bureau of Prisons.
4. Imperiale, S. (19 April 2017). "Opposition to Prison Is an Environmental Fight in Appalachia." Natural Resources Defense Council.

Photo Credit: Matt Wasson, Appalachian Voices / CC BY 2.0

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