Sunday, September 03, 2017

National Academies say strip-mine health study is only one Interior has suspended, refuting agency

When the Interior Department suspended a National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine study on the possible health effects of large-scale surface coal mining in Central Appalachia, it said it was part of a review of all grants and partnerships costing more than $100,000. But the study "is the only one of eight current Interior-funded National Academies projects that has been put on even a temporary hold, according to Academies officials," Ken Ward Jr. reports for the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

"Seven other projects with funding of $100,000 or more are continuing without any such orders from the department or anyone else in the Trump administration," Ward reports. "The mountaintop-removal study, with a $1 million price tag, is the largest of the studies. The total Interior funding for the other seven is roughly $2.8 million, according to National Academies officials," who are part of a "private, non-profit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine," Ward notes.

Steve Gardner
The scientific journal Nature objected to the suspension of the study, calling it a rare event and noting that little research has been done in the area, partly due to opposition from the coal industry. "Coal companies funded a major effort to try to discredit the mountaintop removal health studies, targeting especially the work of Michael Hendryx, a former West Virginia University researcher who co-authored many of the peer-reviewed papers on the subject," Ward writes. "Among the coal industry critics of the research was J. Steven Gardner, a Kentucky mining engineer identified by Environment & Energy News as the front-runner" for director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, which contracted for the study. Basing his story on "multiple sources," reporter Dylan Brown wrote, "Gardner's name has been in the rumor mill since shortly after Election Day."

Gardner "was part of a multi-company team hired to analyze the potential economic impacts of the Stream Protection Rule, the Obama administration's seven-year quest to impose new restrictions on coal-mining pollution," Brown notes. "Gardner testified before Congress that he and other team members refused to change their assumptions for calculating the rule's impact under pressure from OSMRE and were subsequently fired. OSMRE, for its part, argued that work by Gardner and his colleagues was shoddy and both sides parted ways after not renewing their contract."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Al,

Correction to this story.

My involvement with the Stream Protection Rule process has no relationship to the National Academy Study. I have never taken a position on the Health Study that was recently put on hold.

Steve Gardner