Back in February, Donald Trump signed a bill reversing the Obama administration’s Surface Mining Stream Protection Rule, which protected waterways from coal mining waste. Now he is intent on erasing any evidence that proves coal mining is hazardous to the health of the people who live in proximity to those mines.
In its never-ending quest to erase President Obama from the history books, the Trump administration’s Interior Department, has quashed a scientific study of the public health risks associated with mountaintop-removal coal mining.
A statement issued by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine reads in part:
In an August 18 letter, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement informed the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that it should cease all work on a study of the potential health risks for people living near surface coal mine sites in Central Appalachia. The letter states that the Department has begun an agency-wide review of its grants and cooperative agreements in excess of $100,000, largely as a result of the Department’s changing budget situation.
The Obama administration commissioned the study last year in response to a request from West Virginia to examine the effects of mountaintop removal on the communities surrounding the mining operations.
Companies engaging in the practice dump the resultant detritus into valleys and streams in proximity to the mines, in many cases causing extensive pollution and health risks to the communities affected.
Democrats and environmental groups are critical of the move.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D- AZ) is the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Natural Resources. He said:
Mountaintop removal mining has been shown to cause lung cancer, heart disease and other medical problems. Stopping this study is a ploy to stop science in its tracks and keep the public in the dark about health risks as a favor to the mining industry, pure and simple.
Luke Popovich, who is a spokesman for the National Mining Association countered with a statement that is reminiscent of Big Tobacco when it denied any link between cigarettes, lung cancer, and heart disease:
The National Institute of Environmental and Health Sciences concluded in July that after examining available studies, it didn’t see evidence justifying a health hazard, noting that no conclusive evidence connected mountaintop mining with health effects and that studies often failed to account for extraneous health and lifestyle effects.
In other words, the people of West Virginia and other communities with close proximity to these mines have only themselves to blame for their health problems. The heavy metals like selenium and manganese released into the streams and waterways near their communities have nothing to do with it. Neither is the dust dispersed into the air as a result of the explosions when the mountaintops are blown away.
The National Academies study begun last year was to have taken two years to complete with a price tag of $1 million. According to Heather Smith, with the Interior Department, the Trump administration is conducting a review of grants and cooperative agreements that top $100,000 to ensure the effective use of tax dollars.
But Trump has no problem with taxpayers continuing to fund his golf trips, the Trump Organization’s business trips, and family vacations to the point of exhausting the Secret Service budget for the year. And it’s only August.