Trump Administration Halts Mining Health Study

Aug 22, 2017

A mountaintop removal mine site in southern West Virginia.
Credit Vivian Stockman and Southwings.

The Trump administration’s Department of the Interior has asked the National Academy of Sciences to suspend research into the health effects of mountaintop removal coal mining.

A team from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine was established last year for a two-year study. The committee has been conducting hearings and investigating accumulating science on the health impacts of surface mining, especially the practice known as mountaintop removal.


A statement from the National Academies said that the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement sent a letter calling off the study until an agency-wide review of existing grants and projects can be conducted.

The Interior Department says its review is due to changing budget conditions. But environmental groups quickly issued statements condemning the decision. The Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition called it an “attack on science,” and the Sierra Club called it "infuriating" that the administration would impede the ability of mining communities to learn about the health effects of mining.

Indiana University Environmental Health Professor Michael Hendryx has conducted substantial research into possible health correlations associated with living near surface mining operations. Hendryx said in an email that he worries the review is politically motivated given the Trump Administration’s “anti-science, pro-coal orientation.”

Hearings previously planned for this week in Kentucky will proceed. A release from the Academy calls the study important and says the academy is ready to resume work as soon as the review is complete.