We love our coal miners,” the President said as he signed an executive order to lift coal mining’s safety and environmental regulations. Donald Trump spent much of his Presidential campaign cozying up to coal workers and their families in West Virginia, Kentucky and other rural parts of Appalachia, where the industry has been hollowed out in recent years thanks to automation and the rise of cheaper, cleaner natural gas.
Miners “have not been treated well,” Trump lamented, promising to put unemployed miners back to work. “But they’re going to be treated well now,” he declared in Louisville a week before signing his order. But those miners aren’t going back to work. Whether Trump knows that or not remains an open question.
In promising to reverse President Barack Oba – ma’s “Clean Power Plan”—requiring coal-burning power plants to reduce carbon pollution—Trump argued, “No single regulation threatens our miners, energy workers and companies more than this crushing attack on American industry.” Actually it’s not miners or their families that Trump is concerned about. It’s the industry bosses who funded his campaign. They may benefit from removal of some regulations. Workers—who’ve been fighting for jobs and their very lives for decades—will not, and the Trump Administration is vying to make that fight even harder.
One practice that has decimated coal-industry jobs is mountaintop removal mining (MTR). According to Bob Kincaid, cofounder of the Appalachian Community Health Emergency Campaign, “Ten people working with a bunch of heavy machinery can take down 5,000 acres in five years. You’re not paying many people there.”