In an August 18 letter, the Department of the Interior asked the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to cease all work on a study examining the health risks for Central Appalachian residents living near surface coal mines. Interior had announced its support of the study last August under the Obama administration, allocating $1 million for two years of research.
“West Virginia asked us in the federal government for help,” the department said in an August 3 statement. “We wanted to do the best we could for the people, so we brought the National Academy of Sciences on board because they are one of the world’s most reputable scientific organizations. Good things happen when we work together.”
A 2011 study from the University of Nevada found that areas near mountaintop removal mines, a form of surface mining, experienced higher mortality rates than other Appalachian counties, which researchers attributed both to the region’s extreme poverty and the environmental factors associated with mountaintop removal.
The Academies’ study is not the only Appalachia-related program on the chopping block. Trump’s 2018 budget proposal would cut funds to the Appalachian Regional Commission and U.S. Economic Development Administration, two government programs that aim to improve economies in Appalachia that have been wounded by the coal industry’s decline. His budget also proposes to decrease funding for job training and employment services grants for the region, which voted for Trump in droves.