You know the drill. If it’s a study that reconfirms that climate change is – surprise! – not just real, but that humans are causing it, and its threatening the economy, the infrastructure, or the health of American citizens, the Trump administration will quash it. If you’re a federal scientist that wants to research the phenomenon or talk about it, you’ll be out of a job in no time.
The latest casualty comes courtesy of the Department of the Interior, which is already facing a lot of flak for hinting that it’s going to sell off plenty of National Monuments to private developers. The agency has now ordered that a study looking into the risks of living near coal mining sites be terminated.
The research was focused on coal mines in Central Appalachia, a vast mountainous region that crosses more than a dozen states. Living by them has been documented to be quite risky for a plethora of reasons including, but not limited to, smoke and particulate inhalation and water toxicity. Such exposure can cause respiratory and cardiovascular complications, especially in the elderly and the very young.
That’s why this new study, which was requested by the state of West Virginia back in 2015, was so important. Headed by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) – one of the foremost scientific authorities in the country that dates back to the time of President Lincoln – it would have been comprehensive, at the very least.
In the study’s outline, the researchers note that they wish to “identify effects from surface coal mining operations on air, surface water, groundwater, and drinking water quality and on ecologic communities and soil that could potentially lead to human health concerns.”
The team were also keen to “evaluate the potential for short-term and long-term human health effects, which will include consideration of potential exposure pathways and relevant environmental contaminants and other stressors.”
Now, as reported by NASEM itself, they were told on August 18 to cease and desist their investigation. The reason given is one of funding; specifically, a lack of it at the Department of the Interior.
NASEM is still encouraging the public to attend open meetings in the region, which will focus on the issue of coal mining-linked health risks, and they’ve told their researchers to go ahead with as much work as is legally possible on the subject.
“The National Academies believes this is an important study and we stand ready to resume it as soon as the Department of the Interior review is completed,” it notes in a statement. “We are grateful to our committee members for their dedication to carrying forward with this study.”
Another day in Trump’s America; another scientific endeavor shut down.