Home Featured News Southeast Surface Mine Health Study Suspended

Southeast Surface Mine Health Study Suspended

Southeast Surface Mine Health Study Suspended

Surface coal mining has been an important part of the U.S. and global economy for decades. In the 2015 U.S. Annual Coal Report (published by the U.S. Energy Information Administrations), surface coal mining operations resulted in approximately 37,000 U.S. jobs. As such, researchers have been studying the health issues involved with various surface mining projects. However, the U.S. Interior Department recently gave the order to end the research project altogether.

The Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation, and Enforcement ordered the independent researchers to stop working on finding possible health problems associated with mountaintop removal coal mining. Now, researchers are sounding the alarm. If there are health risks associated with this controversial mining practice, they won’t go away just because they stop being studied.

“With environmental damage or environmental issues, the problem is that most diseases that we are now concerned about are long-term diseases that take decades to appear,” said David Rosner, professor of sociomedical sciences at Columbia. “The science has actually created doubt rather than certainty about cause. What this becomes in the hands of politicians is an excuse for inaction.”

According to ABC News, the Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement said that it was reconsidering all grants over $100,000 because of budgeting reasons. The $1 million research project was focused mainly on states in the southeast, including Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

However, this reasoning doesn’t hold water with everyone. William Kearney, spokesman for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, said that the mining study was the only project stopped, as five other projects were allowed to go on.

The Herald-Dispatch added that $600,000 of the $1 million was already spent on the suspended project.

Similar studies have been published over the last few years highlighting the dangers of the coal mining industry, including a 2010 report in Geospatial Health, which found coal to have arsenic, cadmium, chromium, nickel, and beryllium carcinogens.

The author of a 2012 study involving mortality rates and coal mining, Dr. Jonathan Borak of Yale, is skeptical as to why the 2017 research was stopped in its tracks under the new, coal-friendly administration.

“I think the interference with the scientific process for political reasons is lamentable,” he added.

Of course, that’s a statement that could have easily been made by both sides of this contentious energy debate.