Trump’s Breathtaking Hypocrisy on Coal Mining – by Vivian E. Thomson (Scientific American – September 22, 2017)

Pres. Donald Trump’s contempt for climate change science is well known. Now we see that his administration has put on hold a study of the connections between mountaintop coal mining and the health of nearby communities—research that was requested by West Virginia health authorities and is being conducted by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. This action demonstrates the president’s disregard for the health of coal miners, their families and their friends.

I have a bit of experience in this area, as a former air pollution regulator. From 2002 to 2010, while a full-time faculty member at the University of Virginia, I was a member of the Virginia State Air Pollution Control Board. Virginia is a longtime coal state, and the board confronted several controversial issues concerning coal-related air pollution. Among them, in 2009, was a case of dust pollution in southwestern Virginia.

In a country hollow in the Appalachian town of Roda, Va., coal trucks were driving along a narrow, steep-sided road leading to and from the area’s surface mines, which have scarred the landscape in every direction. Streams of trucks were raising clouds of dirt in their wakes, as coal dust in their beds and mud caked on the trucks flew into the air. Residents counted 10 trucks per hour, 20 hours a day, on weekdays.

The dust made outside activities intolerable and penetrated inside people’s homes, which were only 10 to 20 feet from the road. Nell Campbell, then 91 years old, said she could not sit on her porch or work in her garden because of the dust. Her grandchildren couldn’t play in the yard. Former coal miner Ronnie Willis, then 70 years old, said he could not open the windows or take walks on the road in front of his house.

Willis suffered from emphysema and black lung disease and he worried about the impacts of the dust on his already degraded health. He spoke of the intimidation friends had experienced at the hands of coal companies: “A lot of people in the community are afraid to challenge the companies that are harming our health and well-being. But I am not afraid to stand up for myself and my community.”

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