WASHINGTON – For more than 50 years, Art Sullivan has worked as a coal miner, mine manager and industry consultant in the U.S. and around the world. When CNN asked him about President Trump’s promises to miners that he will save their jobs, Sullivan was blunt:
“He's trying to get their votes,” said Sullivan, of Washington, Pa. “He’s lying to them.”
Despite Trump’s repeated promises as a candidate and as president that he would bring back the dying coal industry, more plants have closed during his first two years in office than during former President Obama’s entire first term.
“No group of Americans has been lied to more often by President Trump than coal miners and their families,” said EWG president Ken Cook. “Clinging to the promises of a President who peddles in falsehoods every day will not bring coal jobs back.”
The pace of coal plant shutdowns has not slowed since the Trump administration announced the rollback of key Obama-era regulations to cap smokestack pollution from coal plants and the U.S. pullout from the Paris climate change accord.
The administration has made repeal of the Obama rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal plants the centerpiece of its failed ploy to save the industry, arguing these efforts will reduce the economic burden on the industry and allow it to flourish once more.
Trump’s dishonesty with miners started during his run for the White House.
At a May 2016 campaign rally in Charleston, W.Va., Trump told the crowd: “If I win, we’re going to bring those miners back. You’re going to be so proud of your president.”
“For those miners, get ready, because you’re going to be working your asses off,” candidate Trump told the crowd at the end of the rally.
At a November 2018 rally in West Virginia, President Trump told the state’s coal miners: “You’re back in business.”
But the following month, the federal Energy Information Administration released projections that showed coal consumption by utilities had dropped to its lowest levels since 1979. The use of coal by the U.S. power sector dropped 4 percent in 2018, to levels not seen since Jimmy Carter was president. And the EIA predicts that decline will double to 8 percent in 2019.
The rapid decline of the coal industry as the leading electricity source in the U.S. is not triggered by federal regulations but by economics. Coal, as well as nuclear power, simply can’t compete with cheaper, cleaner and safer renewable energy from solar and wind.
Instead of false promises, Art Sullivan told CNN, “What you need to say to coal miners is ‘We’re going to figure out a way to give you better, safer, healthier jobs.’”
And statistics show that the way to do that is through renewable energy.
EWG’s analysis of reports last summer from the nonprofits Clean Energy Trust and E2 found that in the Great Lakes region – including the coal mining states of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio – renewable energy jobs outnumber those in coal and nuclear by more than four to one. As of 2017, an estimated 160,000 clean energy jobs had been created in the rural Midwest.
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.