Closure of US coal study marks an alarming precedent
When the US National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) speaks, the government usually listens.
Although much is known about the risks of coal mining to miners, little research has been done on its health impacts on local communities, not least because of attempts by the coal industry to hinder such work.
Mining companies and trade organizations have sued for access to the e-mails of academics researching mountaintop removal, and have fought to keep peer-reviewed studies from being used in court.
The National Mining Association questioned the value of the NASEM study when it was announced.
The agency says it is reviewing spending on all projects that cost more than $100,000.
She did not respond to questions about which other projects are under review.
This is the first time that the administration of President Donald Trump has cancelled a NASEM study that has already started — a move that has rarely happened in the past, according to the academies.
The Trump administration has made no secret of its fondness for the US coal industry, which employs around 76,000 people.
(By comparison, around 1.2 million people live in counties where mountaintop removal takes place.)
Yet the move to pre-empt the prestigious and independent NASEM is particularly concerning.