The Trump administration halted an independent offshore oil drilling review, the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine reported on Thursday. The study was aimed at improving inspections of industry platforms, like the one responsible for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Ordered to halt on Dec. 7, the $582,000 review was meant to recommend improvements to the Department of Interior's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. Its first meetings were held in October.
"Future meetings planned to be held in the Gulf of Mexico region have been put on hold," said the science academy in a statement, adding it was "disappointed" that the study has been stopped.
"The NAS study was paused by BSEE to allow time to ensure that there are no duplicate efforts," with ongoing agency risk studies, BSEE press secretary Greg Julian told BuzzFeed News in an emailed statement.
The move follows the halt in August by the Interior Department of a science academy review of pollution deaths caused by mountaintop mining. NASEM has not received an update on that review since the halt was ordered. An agency representative told BuzzFeed News the review was "ongoing" earlier this month, and offered no more comment.
"I’m still trying to get more information about this latest study, but I fear this is just another example of President Trump’s war on science and expertise," Rep. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, told BuzzFeed News in a statement on the halt.
"The Trump administration has a pattern of silencing respected experts to make sure they can get their way, then clamming up themselves when you ask them why.”
BSEE was first reorganized after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, which killed 11 workers and caused the largest environmental disaster in US history.
Halts to US science academy studies are rare. Review of the BSEE study will end within 90 days, the academy said, either allowing the effort to resume or terminating its contract.
The science academy said that it still hoped to restart the mountaintop mining safety study, and that private donors had come forward who may allow that effort, which is already half completed, to continue.
"Given how important this study is to the citizens and communities surrounding these surface mining sites in Appalachia, the National Academies believe the study should be completed and are exploring options to do so," the academy said in a statement.
This story was updated to include a statements from Rep. Raul Grijalva and from BSEE press secretary Greg Julian.
Dan Vergano is a science reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Dan Vergano at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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