Expand Project To Aid Ex-Miners

President Donald Trump knows, despite his rhetoric on the campaign trail, that nothing he can do will restore the job of all the coal miners who lost them during the past eight years. Between former President Barack Obama’s war on coal and market forces, some of those men and women will never go back to the mines.

The next best thing for Trump would be to help laid-off miners get new, different jobs and to help the states hurt by the drastic downturn in the coal industry.

Unfortunately, the president’s federal budget proposal would be counterproductive in that regard.

A $90 million pilot program intended to help coal-state economies and put some laid-off miners in new jobs will not be renewed, much less expanded, if Congress approves the president’s spending plan. Trump’s budget includes nothing for the program, meaning it could be discontinued within months.

Eliminating the program, which operates in West Virginia, Kentucky and Pennsylvania, would not save taxpayers a dime. That is because it is paid for through a special fund administered by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. The fund, containing about $2 billion, is funded primarily by fees paid by mine operators.

For a change, the federal jobs program appears to be one with a real effect on economic development. It accomplishes multiple purposes by putting displaced miners back to work cleaning up and “repurposing” abandoned mine sites.

That is good for the ex-miners, who get paychecks. It is good for the environment, because it cleans up large areas devastated in the past by irresponsible mining. And it is good for states’ economies — especially in mountainous terrain where it can be difficult to find land suitable for development.

West Virginia gets little enough — $30 million –from the pilot project. But the money is being put to good use at four different sites in southern counties.

Coal regions continue to suffer from the mining downturn, and much of the blame rests on the federal government. Not just continuing, but instead expanding, the pilot project ought to be part of the next federal budget.