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We reflect and update as HIV/AIDS first came to national attention 40 years ago this month; and when it comes to infrastructure spending, bipartisanship isn't dead yet.


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President Biden offers up more COVID-19 vaccines to the world; Dems and GOP close in on an infrastructure deal; and Speaker Pelosi tries to quell a spat over the Middle East among Democrats.

Biologist: Leaked MTR Memo Stated What Scientists Know

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 By Dan HeymanContact
August 26, 2009

CHARLESTON, W. Va. - In June, West Virginia Department Of Environmental Protection Director Randy Huffman testified before Congress that there is little evidence of major environmental damage from mountaintops being removed to get at the coal underneath. However, an agency biologist has contradicted Huffman in a memo leaked to the Charleston Gazette.

According to Ben Stout, a biologist at Wheeling Jesuit University, the document said what a majority of researchers already know: that mountaintop removal mining wipes out entire ecological systems.

"There are many people, in multiple government agencies and in the private sector, that have known for a long time that mountaintop removal mining is tremendously destructive at the ecosystem level."

Stout describes the impact as massive, including even the smallest insects and birds in the region.

"It's a complete change, from one of the most diverse and productive forest ecosystems on the planet to a grassland that's nowhere to be found naturally in the southern Appalachians. Whole lineages, like the mayflies, are basically disappearing because they can't tolerate the conditions. Migratory birds from South America, their breeding places are rapidly disappearing from southern West Virginia."

The DEP did not immediately reply to a request for comment about Stout's remarks. The coal industry argues that any environmental impact is short-term and that the ecosystems quickly recover from mountaintop removal. Stout disagrees, saying the damage will last for hundreds of years, or longer.

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