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Articles by Sara Imperiale

Opposition to Prison Is an Environmental Fight in Appalachia

by Sara Imperiale

A proposed federal prison has become the focus of opposition for advocates concerned about the project's most notable feature: it’s slated for a mountaintop coal removal site.

Coal companies mine by mountaintop removal predominately in the central Appalachian Mountains, which consists of parts of Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. To access the coal seams, forest cover is completely cleared on the mountaintop and then explosive charges are detonated to break through the surface. Mining debris is bulldozed over the side of the mountain, often into streams below. Hundreds of mountains have been leveled for coal mining in Kentucky alone.

Studies show that the health of residents suffers in mountaintop mining counties. For example, researchers have concluded that mountaintop mining areas are associated with more days of poor physical and mental health, even when compared with people living near other forms of mining. This includes increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. 

In late 2015, Congress earmarked $444 million for the Bureau of Prisons to build the Letcher County Penitentiary and Federal Prison Camp. According to the most recent proposal prepared by the Bureau of Prisons under its National Environmental Policy Act obligations, the plan ...