In light of the recent "War on Coal," conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency and groups like the Sierra Club and the Rainforest Action Network and numerous others, it is vital to verify that these studies are operating outside of politics. The findings may very well be robust and objective, but there are some glaring discrepancies in the studies reported by NPR and CPI.
The recent alarming study of surface miners in 2002 "found an illness rate of under 2 percent and a rate of advanced disease of 0.1 percent. In the current study, levels were five times higher."
In another recent study highlighted by NPR and CPI, former Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) chief Davitt McAteer "led a team of investigators who conducted an independent probe of the April 5, 2010, explosion that killed 29 miners at Upper Big Branch." Aside from investigating the explosion, the team hired Dr. Robert Cohen, MD, F.C.C.P to review the autopsies of the workers specifically for prevalence of Black Lung Disease. It was unclear why the team did not just ask the West Virginia Medical Examiner to look for the disease.
The final report revealed that an autopsy of the bodies showed that a shocking "71 percent of [miners] show evidence of CWP [Coal workers' Pneumoconiosis]."
In another twist to this story, the study by Davitt McAteer was held in conjunction with Wheeling Jesuit University, and an ongoing criminal investigation claims that fraud took place involving millions of dollars of federal grants.
Interestingly, Robert Cohen, MD, F.C.C.P, who was hired to conduct the review of the autopsies for presence of the disease, is not too fond of the coal industry and is on a local news report, (at around 1:40), saying he is "overjoyed" over the closure of two coal plants.
Furthermore, in an article for the "Chicago Clean Power Coalition," Cohen stated, "We cannot continue putting our children at risk because of these dirty, old coal plants." Is there a conflict of interest in using a physician to conduct a study who is clearly biased against the coal industry?
Of course the studies may be perfectly legitimate, but due to the political climate surrounding the coal industry, these investigations warrant scrutiny.