WASHINGTON – The nation’s biggest coal mining union announced its support Monday for federal legislation and policies that shift the U.S. from fossil fuels to renewable energy, while also including job training and financial assistance for displaced coal workers.
At the National Press Club, Cecil E. Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers, called for federal support for wind turbines and solar panels to be manufactured in Appalachia and other regions of the country where coal jobs once dominated the local economies.
Roberts was joined by West Virginia’s senior senator, Joe Manchin, who echoed Roberts’ call.
“Anybody in Appalachia that would say ‘I don’t want good paying jobs in Appalachia because they might come from the Biden administration,' I find that to be utterly ridiculous. We’ll take good paying jobs anyway we can get them,” Roberts said.
EWG President Ken Cook applauded Roberts’ and Manchin’s call and pledged his organization’s support.
“There is no group of hardworking Americans who have seen their employment prospects shrink as much as coal miners and their families,” Cook said. “The hard truth is those coal jobs are not coming back, and those that are left are also going away, even if Washington does nothing to advance the clean energy economy. The economics are simply rolling that way.
“And here’s a truth just as hard,” Cook continued. “A decade or more has been tragically squandered by politicians and mining interests posturing about a ‘war on coal,’ time that should have been spent preparing miners and their communities for the transition anyone could see was coming. That’s what makes President Biden’s pledge so important: We will not forget the workers ‘who dug the coal and built the nation.’"
Cook added: “We must do all we can to create well-paid jobs in the clean energy economy, and provide training and assistance for workers making the transition. That means focusing on solutions that will deliver long-term jobs now and in the future that offer a real and enduring response to the climate emergency, not unproven technologies that will once again mislead coal, oil and gas and nuclear workers and their families.
“Of course, a just transition for coal country will not be forthcoming unless Republicans fully support it – or the Senate finds the will to reform or work around the filibuster,” Cook said.
In his $2.2 trillion stimulus plan, President Biden has called for more federal investment in coal country, including grants for mining communities for job training and retooling of shuttered coal plants and other facilities. Manchin and Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan have recently introduced the American Jobs in Energy Manufacturing Act, which would provide $8 billion in federal tax credits to manufacturers that invest in new or expanded facilities to make parts and technologies needed to reduce carbon emissions.
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.