In a victory for Making America Great (and Polluted) Again, the Trump administration has killed off a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine study reviewing health risks faced by communities near mountaintop removal mining sites. The study was approved last year by Obama’s Office of Surface Mining (OSM), part of the Department of the Interior, after requests from public groups, the state of West Virginia, and several academic experts:
Last year, the OSM committed to providing more than $1 million for the study, in response to growing pressure from citizen groups and requests from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and the state Bureau for Public Health in understanding studies by experts at West Virginia University and other institutions that found increased risks of birth defects, cancer, other illnesses and premature death among residents living near mountaintop removal sites in Southern West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky.
However, while all those stakeholders may have thought the study might be useful, they overlooked one important factor: If Obama ordered it, it was obviously bad, and had to be eliminated because it was part of the War On Coal.
In what’s become a regular practice for the Trump administration, there was no announcement from the government about killing the study; rather, the researchers who were told to stop getting in the way of the coal industry had to let the media know themselves:
Academies spokesman William Kearney said in a statement that the OSM told the academies in a letter Friday to “cease all work” on the mountaintop removal study. The letter indicated that Interior had begun “an agency-wide review” of grants and cooperative agreements in excess of $100,000, “largely as a result of the Department’s changing budget situation,” the academies said.
Oh, golly, and look at the timing! The letter arrived just ahead of public meetings scheduled this week to seek input from residents in the coalfield areas. The Academies’ statement said, however, that while researchers were ordered to stop research immediately, the meetings in Kentucky would go ahead anyway, with public hearings in Hazard and Lexington Monday through Wednesday, which the public was encouraged to attend. The Academies just can’t do anything with the testimony, conveniently enough.
When the study was announced last August, a news release from the OSM
cited a “growing amount of academic research” that suggests “possible correlations” between increased public health risks and living near mountaintop removal sites. The agency said there was a need to examine existing studies, identify research gaps and look for “new approaches to safeguard the health of residents living near these types of coal-mining operations.”
Not to worry, though! The coal industry knows that there’s really no need for any more science on this matter, since that would only waste money and make people feel sad, as the New York Times reports:
Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association, said the decision to halt the study may have been justified.
“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,” he said.
Say, kids, if you haven’t read Merchants of Doubt, about how industries use the trappings of science against real science, that’s exactly what Popovich is up to there: The actual review of researchhe’s referring to didn’t say there’s nothing to worry about; it said previous studies had flaws that prevented them from drawing firm conclusions, and called for MORE research that would rule out those variables, not giving up. Science is fun for corporations to lie about!
In any case, the Interior Department is all about being thrifty, so it’s shutting down scientific studies that aren’t worth spending money on. And since there’s some chance that this study would find out that mountaintop removal is harmful to nearby communities, it’s absolutely imperative to stop science! And if the research is stopped, then the industry can keep saying the science isn’t clear. Isn’t that a neat trick?
You know that Trump is doing what’s best for America, since the news made a tree-hugging communist mad:
Bill Price, a Sierra Club organizer in Southern West Virginia, issued a statement that called the OSM action “infuriating.”
“Trump has once again shown the people of Appalachia that we mean nothing to him,” Price said in the statement. “From his proposed budget cuts to the Appalachian Regional Commission, to pushing to take away health care from thousands of Appalachian people to now stripping doctors and scientists of the ability to warn us about the health effects of mountaintop coal removal, Trump’s showing that he’s only been pretending to care about our communities.”
Hahaha, cry, liberal, cry! Donald Trump won, and your “science” is not going to get in the way of making everybody in coal country lots of money now! Or at least the coal CEOs; the people downstream can fuck off with their “cancer” and “birth defects” and “premature death,” which probably result from their bad lifestyle choices anyway, which is why they won’t get any more Medicaid, either, the takers. They want healthcare, they should join the Army and go fight in Afghanistan. Some more.
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