Federal Watchdog: Interior Department Scrapped Coal Health Study Without Good Reason

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Originally published on June 13, 2018 3:28 pm

A federal watchdog group said the U.S. Interior Department didn’t give an adequate reason for cancelling a study on the health impacts of coal mining last year.

At the time, federal officials said the study wouldn’t yield any new findings.

But the U.S. Office of the Inspector General said the agency couldn’t provide any evidence to back up that assertion.  

The Inspector General’s office also said Interior wasted almost $500,000 by ending the study early.

“My first thought is that this is completely typical of Secretary Zinke’s war on science,” said Aaron Weiss, a spokesperson for the environmental group Center For Western Priorities.

Weiss believed the U.S. Interior Department is burying scientific studies like this that don’t fit its pro-energy extraction narrative.

In a statement, Interior spokesperson Heather Swift said the coal mining study was a “duplicative and wasteful taxpayer-funded project.”

The study was launched by the Obama administration. It hoped to explore the health impacts of  removing mountaintops to mine the coal within.

The investigation into the project’s cancellation was initially requested by a ranking U.S. House Democrat.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

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