Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton just put out a $30 billion plan to “revitalize” coal communities where people are losing their jobs due to federal regulations and increased competition from natural gas.
The former secretary of state still wants to force coal plants to retire and push more green energy, popular among the Democratic base, but also wants support from coal unions — a group traditionally supportive of Democratic politicians.
“But we can’t ignore the impact this transition is already having on mining communities, or the threat it poses to the healthcare and retirement security of coalfield workers and their families,” according to Clinton’s plan.
“This is particularly true in Appalachia, where production has been declining for decades, but impacts are beginning to be felt in the Illinois Basin and Western coalfields as well,” according to the plan.
Clinton’s plan includes paying for job training programs, massive infrastructure projects, tax credits and expanding green energy production on federal lands. Clinton’s coal plan comes just months after she released a plan to boost green energy use by installing half a billion solar panels across the country by the end of her first term in office.
Environmental Protection Agency regulations are forcing hundreds of coal-fired power plants to shut down in the coming years. Costly rules limiting mercury, carbon dioxide, sulfur oxide and particulates have made it too costly to operate coal plants in the face of cheap natural gas.
Regulations like these have contributed to 3,702 lost coal mine jobs under Obama. Similarly, power plants shed 39,684 jobs during Obama’s tenure. A recent study found the coal industry lost 50,000 jobs from 2008 to 2012 due to regulations and cheap natural gas.
Labor unions oppose many of these regulations since they have contributed to rampant job losses among coal miners and power plant workers. Appalachian states have lost thousands of coal mine jobs in the last few years, and unions have been blaming the Obama administration.
“If Hillary Clinton were truly on the side of coal country, she would stand up to extreme anti-energy environmentalists that run the Democrat party instead of embracing their agenda that is killing jobs and driving up costs,” Michael Short, a Republican National Committee spokesman, said in a statement to the Guardian.
More job losses could be down the road. EPA regulations on new power plants effectively mandate new coal plants use carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology that hasn’t been proven on a commercial scale. China’s economic woes are also dampening coal demand.
Obama has dedicated $35 million for job training so “communities and workers successfully adapt to changes in the coal industry and power sector.” The funds would go towards job training programs and attempting to build up local commerce.
“Kentucky’s coal miners, their families and those working in coal-related jobs continue to suffer under this Administration’s War on Coal and its burdensome regulations, the result of which has been the loss of thousands of high-wage jobs in a region facing serious economic challenges,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Kentucky alone has lost 5,188 coal job under Obama — a 31 percent reduction in the state’s coal mine workforce. Many of these mine and power plant closings have been blamed on Obama’s EPA regulations.
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