With Donald Trump’s victory over Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, Nov. 8, coal country rejoiced as the candidate who promised to bring back jobs vital to much of the central and northern Appalachian region will assume the White House in January 2017.
During President Obama’s tenure, coal miners have been devastated by new EPA regulations, specifically the Clean Power Plan, which have made the combustible black rock uneconomical, leading to less demand and the subsequent closure of coal mines.
Specifically, the EPA program requires new coal power plants to implement carbon capture and storage protocol, namely amine scrubbing of CO2, which effectively prices coal out of the market. However, even when regulations are rolled back, natural gas plants will still be cheaper to run.
As a result, politicians and advocates in coal states are starting to tamp down expectations for the future of the industry if and when environmental rules are eliminated, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
“We are going to be presenting to the new president a variety of options that could end this assault,” McConnell said on Friday at the University of Louisville. “Whether that immediately bring business back is hard to tell because it’s a private sector activity.”
Kentucky Coal Association interim president Nick Carter was more direct, saying he does “not expect to see a lot of growth because of the Trump presidency. If there is any growth in Eastern Kentucky, it will be because of an improved economy for coal.”
Through September, there were only 6,254 coal-related jobs in Kentucky, over a 100 percent decline since 2011. Latest figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show that between 2014 and 2015 alone, the U.S. coal industry has lost 12 percent of its jobs overall and a 16 percent loss in Appalachia.
With not much hope for the future, areas heavily dependent on the industry such as southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky are in desperate need of an organized transition plan to be able to compete in a coal-less economy. That transition likely requires both welfare programs to assist older out-of-work coal miners and job re-training or education programs for younger citizens in the region.
However, McConnell says that approach is only one-half of the solution. “A government spending program is not likely to solve the fundamental problem of growth,” he said. “I support the effort to help these coal counties wherever we can but that isn’t going to replace whatever was there when we had a vibrant coal industry.”
[Lexington Herald Leader] [Photo courtesy AP via Yahoo News]