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DOI Orders Study of Mountaintop Removal's Health Effects Halted

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has been directed to stop all work on a study of the potential health risks for people living near surface coal mine sites in central Appalachia, based on an Aug. 18 letter from the U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.

The Aug. 18 DOI letter says 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."

In a statement posted on its website, the National Academies said it "will go forward with previously scheduled meetings for this project in Kentucky on August 21-23 -- which are allowed to proceed according to the letter -- and encourages the public to attend open meetings in Hazard and Lexington on August 21 and 22. 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. We are grateful to our committee members for their dedication to carrying forward with this study."

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine.

Bill Price, senior Appalachia Organizing Representative for Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, issued this statement: "It's infuriating that Trump would halt this study on the health effects of mountaintop removal coal mining, research that people in Appalachia have been demanding for years. Trump has once again shown the people of Appalachia that we mean nothing to him. From his proposed budget cuts to Appalachian Regional Commission to pushing to take away health care from thousands of Appalachian people, and 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.

"What did we ever do to him? Everyone knows there are major health risks living near mountaintop coal removal sites, but communities living with daily health threats were counting on finally getting the full story from the professionals at the National Academies of Science. To take that away without warning or adequate reason is beyond heartless. It appears that the only people Trump cares about in Appalachia are coal executives, not the people who've lived and worked here for generations. People here trusted him, but he is proving he didn't deserve that trust."

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