Background for a study
As explained by the New York Times:
Last year, West Virginia officials asked the Obama administration to look into the health effects of mountaintop mining, a technique used to extract underlying coal. . . .
The National Academies assembled a 12-member expert committee to assess “new approaches to safeguard the health of residents” living near the mines. . . .
Mountaintop removal, which has occurred on at least 500 Appalachian mountains, has clogged streams and waterways with heavy metals such as selenium and manganese, which can be toxic in high concentrations. The dust kicked up by these explosions is also considered a hazard.
What happened to that study?
The Trump administration ended the study last month. A Times editorial this past weekend explained what happened:
The order to shut it down came just hours before the scientists were scheduled to meet with affected residents of Kentucky.
The Interior Department said the project was put on hold as a result of an agencywide budgetary review of grants and projects costing more than $100,000.
This was not persuasive to anyone who had been paying attention. From Day 1, the White House and its lackeys in certain federal agencies have been waging what amounts to a war on science, appointing people with few scientific credentials to key positions, defunding programs that could lead to a cleaner and safer environment and a healthier population, and, most ominously, censoring scientific inquiry that could inform the public and government policy.
From the Washington Post:
Mr. Trump and his department heads have made a very big deal of saving jobs in a declining industry that is already under severe pressure from market forces, including competition from cheaper natural gas. An unfavorable health study would inject unwelcome reality into Mr. Trump’s rosy promises of a job boom fueled by “clean, beautiful coal.”
Charlie Pierce put it much more directly:
This president ran on the most pro-coal platform of any presidential candidate since Theodore Roosevelt stepped in to mediate the coal strikes in 1905. . . .
Of course, in the real world, the coal industry continues to be dangerously unhealthy and environmentally ruinous. So, naturally, having handed environmental policy over to people like EPA director Scott Pruitt, an extraction industry sublet, the way to solve these perennial problems with coal is not to study them any more.
But, if you don't study something, it doesn't really exist. The damage already done to this country and its institutions is going to take decades to fix.