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For a long-suffering community in Kentucky, the White House's claim that the war on poverty was won sounds like a cruel joke. And yet, entire villages are still being razed to make room for expanding coal mines, with residents protesting in vain. () Gold mining in African countries takes place in unlicensed or small scale mines, where thousands of children work in hazardous conditions and end up developing respiratory health problems.() Ceremonies have been held to mark the end of 155 years of coal mining at Prosper-Haniel in the industrial Ruhr Valley.Exploring green alternatives In place of prisons, some nearby coal-mining communities are eyeing environmentally friendly uses for abandoned mines.
The area's rate of labor force participation is 45%, about two-thirds the US average.
It now has fewer coal jobs than at any time since 1898.
Mountaintop removal has been a boon for mine operators, but generates less employment than conventional mining, and takes a harsher toll on surroundings.
Operators detonate mountaintops and shunt the millions of tons of debris into neighboring valleys, forming flat plots like the planned prison site.
The Lilley Cornett Woods is a forest preserve near the planned prison site, which is home to three species of endangered bats.
The group argues on its website and in legal filings that the proposal to build the prison endangered the forest with pollution, traffic and "massive quantities of sewage and cleaning chemicals." Central Appalachian forests like the Lilley Cornett Woods are among the world's most biodiverse and threatened, according to a 2010 New York Times report.Dustin Mc Daniel, ALC's executive director, believes the case is likely the first environmental lawsuit brought by incarcerated people, the first jointly filed by federal prisoners and local conservationists and the first in which US prisoners have sued to prevent construction of a new facility."The failure, on the part of the BOP, to perform the required environmental justice analysis was a blatant attempt to circumvent the law at inmates' expense," wrote Robert Black, who is incarcerated at a medium-security prison in Colorado, in communications shared by the Abolitionist Law Center.Prisons on waste sites The planned prison is not the first to raise environmental concerns.One 2017 analysis, based on work by cartographer Paige Williams, found that over 130 US prisons lie within 1.6 kilometers (about 1 mile) of a Superfund site, areas with hazardous waste or pollution severe enough to require federal government intervention.Debbie Chizewer, the Montgomery Foundation Environmental Law Fellow at Northwestern University, called the decision a "victory for common sense" and a "recognition of the serious environmental and economic concerns" raised by the plan's opponents.Chizewer said state agencies sometimes "end up merely checking the box, rather than taking a meaningful or substantive analysis" of environmental impacts and health risks.Valley fill from decades of past mining now covers thousands of kilometers of Appalachian waterways.Environmental Protection Agency tests of the proposed site found acceptable levels of heavy metals and water acidification, but "insufficient" cleanup of leaking natural gas equipment, and arsenic "well above" regional screening levels, the agency's standard for safe long-term exposure.It's been rare for environmental activists to successfully influence major government decisions in Donald Trump's White House.But Black and his fellow plaintiffs have gone some way to demonstrating the growing reach of the US environmental movement, whose activists are increasingly linking questions of emissions and energy to racial and criminal justice.