Study Evaluating Health Risks of Mountaintop Removal Halted

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A federal study that was examining the health impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining — halted last fall by the Trump Administration — is officially over.

The National Academies of Science disbanded the 11-person committee of scientists and experts assembled to work on the study.

The committee was about five months into its research when the Department of the Interior pulled its $1 million grant last August.

The two-year study was to address concerns state officials and some residents of Appalachia had about research that linked mountaintop removal to a variety of health problems.

Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement approached the prestigious National Academies in 2016. The agency later announced it was reviewing all major grants, including the study, and the committee halted its work.

Paul Locke, associate professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, chaired the study’s committee. He said the group was deep into the process when Interior pulled its support and never reconvened.

“I think we were making excellent progress, and I believe if we had been allowed to finish the study we would have come up with some information that would have been valuable to states and the citizens, but, we, of course, weren’t allowed to get that far.”

The National Academies pursued private funding to keep the effort going, but was unsuccessful. Without additional money, the study’s committee was released earlier this year.