Is mountaintop coal removal in Central Appalachia a public health safety concern? Probably. Does President Trump’s Department of the Interior care to find out? Maybe not.
On Monday the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, announced that it was instructed to suspend an investigation into whether the coal mining process posed a health risk to surrounding communities after U.S. Department of the Interior was reviewing funding for the project.
The Interior Department informed the nonprofit that it should halt proceeding with the study while it reviews grants exceeding $100,000 due to “the Department’s changing budget situation.” Expected to span two years, initial estimates projected the study would cost approximately $1 million.
Mountaintop removal is pretty much how it sounds: miners strip mountain peaks to retrieve minerals below the surface. The actual process, which has been employed for more than half a century, disrupts local ecosystems (clearly), but more detrimentally, mounting research suggests that it pollutes water sources with toxic chemicals and heavy metals.
Previous studies have found that mountaintop removal caused increased mortality rates, lung cancer, kidney disease, and birth defects in areas surrounding the mines. But a more recent study conducted by the National Institute of Environmental and Health Sciences warned that other variables could have influenced previous research and called for further study.
Despite allowing the nonprofit to proceed with public meetings in Appalachia about participating in the study, it’s improbable that the Interior Department will green light the study after completing a review given the Trump administration’s commitment to inducing a coal renaissance.