Over the past 50 years, coal companies in West Virginia have been blasting the tops off mountains to get at the coal underneath. Finding a place for all that dirt and rubble would seem like a problem, but if you are a coal company, you simply dump it all into the nearest valley or stream.
So what if people drink from those streams? And so what if the water is now contaminated with selenium and manganese, which can be toxic to human beings in high concentrations? For that matter, so what if the Mountain State, with its rugged beauty, gets flattened so it looks more like Nebraska? You can’t eat beauty. Anything that creates jobs has priority over niggling concerns like being able to enjoy a long, healthy life, doesn’t it?
A study published in Science in 2010 found elevated mortality rates as well as higher lung cancer and kidney disease rates among those living near mountain top excavations. Another study in 2011 found more birth defects among those living in surrounding areas. In response to the concerns raised by those reports, last year West Virginia asked the federal government to conduct a study to determine if mountain top removal has any impact on the health of residents living nearby. The Obama administration got the National Academy of Sciences involved, which quickly assembled a team of 12 experts to assess the available evidence and create a report on its findings.
But a review by the National Institute of Environmental and Health Sciences earlier this year found that it was difficult to determine whether health impacts are related to mountain top removal or other causes such as poverty or nutritional anomalies and recommended further studies. The Interior Department, which is now firmly under the control of Trumpenistas, seized on that review as a pretext to order a halt to the entire project, couching it in terms of safeguarding taxpayers from wasteful government spending — this from an administration that wants to waste billions building a wall along the Mexican border.
Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association, said the decision to halt the study may have been justified. “The National Institute of Environmental and Health Sciences concluded in July that after examining available studies, it didn’t see evidence justifying a health hazard, noting that no conclusive evidence connected mountaintop mining with health effects and that studies often failed to account for extraneous health and lifestyle effects.”
Not everyone is so thrilled with Interior’s decision, however. “Mountaintop removal mining has been shown to cause lung cancer, heart disease and other medical problems,” said Representative Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Natural Resources. “Stopping this study is a ploy to stop science in its tracks and keep the public in the dark about health risks as a favor to the mining industry, pure and simple.”
Interior says it is simply reviewing any and all projects costing more than $100,000. The proposed study was projected to cost $1,000,000. What the real reason is, you will have to decide for yourself.
Source: New York Times
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