Chris White, DCNF
Media reports noting concerns about possible consequences from dinging Obama-era rollbacks are apparently not swaying President Donald Trump’s supporters in coal country.
Blue collar workers in West Virginia are getting tired of reporters telling them what is good for them, The Associated Press reported Monday. Their primary concern is keeping their way of life — so reports bemoaning Trump’s regulatory rollback aren’t having much of an effect.
“People here have had it with other people telling us what we need. We know what we need. We need a job,” Steve Knotts told reporters at a convenience store located a few miles from one of the state’s most prominent coal plants, the Grant Town Plant.
West Virginia wants the federal government to lay off the rules, said Knotts, a coal miner who spent 35 years in the industry.
Others mirrored his sentiments.
“I just know this. I like Donald Trump and I think that he’s doing the right thing,” said shop owner Doris Keller, who appeared at an Aug. 21 Trump rally promoting Trump’s most recent rollback.
She added: “I think he has the best interests of the regular common people at the forefront.”
Trump introduced a new rule called the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule that effectively eliminates former President Barack Obama’s so-called Clean Power Plan, which targeted the coal industry and required plants to dramatically reduce carbon emissions within a decade.
ACE restricts emission reduction efforts coal companies and states are obligated to employ. It does not mention any goals for major emission reductions. Andrew Wheeler, Trump’s acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), signed the proposal to scrap environmental restrictions on power plants and leave much of the regulation of the industry to states.
An EPA analysis suggests 350 to 1,500 more people would die each year under Trump’s plan. The president’s rollback would kill an extra 2.4 people a year for every 100,000 people in parts of West Virginia, according to the EPA analysis.
The agency’s analysis compares the number of people who would theoretically die from pollutants under Trump’s plan to those under Obama’s plan, which was signed in 2015 but never officially put in place. The Supreme Court placed a stay on the plan after various coal states sued the Obama administration.
Coal mine employment fell 12 percent in 2015 to its lowest level since the Department of Energy began collecting such data in 1978. West Virginia and Kentucky saw coal mine jobs fall 16 percent and 17 percent, respectively.
Both states went overwhelmingly for Trump, who campaigned on saving the coal industry. He won nearly 63 percent of the vote in Kentucky and just shy of 69 percent of votes in West Virginia. Trump’s coat-tails in Kentucky were so strong that Republicans took control of the state’s legislature for the first time since 1921.