The Interior Department's Office of Surface Mining (OSM) a year ago, under then-President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaCongress needs to assert the war power against a risky president CNN's Don Lemon: Anyone supporting Trump "complicit" in racism DOJ warrant of Trump resistance site triggers alarm MORE, had commissioned the research into the possible connections between certain health risks and living near current or former surface mining sites in Appalachia. The two agencies said they needed federal assistance in a review of several dozen scientific papers that had linked mountaintop removal to increased risks of birth defects, cancer, and premature death among residents living near large-scale surface coal mines in Appalachia.
Bill Price, senior Appalachia organizer at the Sierra Club, called the administration's decision to halt the National Academies study "infuriating".
"In an August 18 letter, the U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement informed the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that it should cease all work on a study of the potential health risks for people living near surface coal mine sites in Central Appalachia", the NASEM said in a news release. The grant came at the request of the state of West Virginia.
A 2009 photo shows a mountaintop removal site in Southern West Virginia.
In a statement, the academy said that, "This is an important study and we stand ready to resume it as soon as the Department of Interior review is completed. To take that away without warning or adequate reason is beyond heartless".
During the campaign Trump had promised to bring back coal jobs, and the administration has been working to target policies that impede coal production.
When he announced a new agenda for the Environmental Protection Agency, Administrator Scott Pruitt told a group of coal miners that "the coal industry was almost devastated by years of regulatory overreach, but with new direction from President Trump, we are helping to turn things around for these miners". "It appears that the only people Trump cares about in Appalachia are coal executives", he wrote, "not the people who've lived and worked here for generations".