Mountaintop removal is associated with a wide range of illnesses, including pneumonia, bronchitis, leukemia and tumors of the lung and trachea.
In an email to DW, a BOP spokesperson said more analysis was needed to address "environmental concerns," and declined to discuss the lawsuit's role in its decision.
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.
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.And a wind-power study of a mountaintop removal site in neighboring West Virginia found it could generate enough power to supply 70,000 homes.Though the Bureau of Prisons could restart the testing process, and attempt to develop the site again, advocates and opponents believe that's unlikely to happen.Exploring green alternatives In place of prisons, some nearby coal-mining communities are eyeing environmentally friendly uses for abandoned mines.In nearby Pike County, the state government has backed a plan to build a 100-megawatt solar farm, Kentucky's largest ever, on mountaintop mine lands.Mountains of coal Eastern Kentucky, home to about 750,000 residents, has a remarkable four federal prisons — 13 times the average for an area its size.All were built between 1992 to 2005 in hopes of offsetting the loss of coal industry jobs that once powered this region.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.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.