Restore Level Playing Field

Coal mining will never be what it was once in West Virginia, President Donald Trump’s detractors say. Yet prominent in the crowd of those who listened to him speak in Charleston Tuesday night were miners, who appeared to be cheering the president enthusiastically.

Trump’s political foes, mindful of the fact our state gave him the largest election majority in the nation, seek to chip away at his popularity here. By insisting the coal industry will not rebound, they hope to make it appear the president is not keeping his pre-election promises.

But complete recovery of the mining industry is not the point. West Virginians have never demanded guarantees. All we ask is to be able to compete on a level playing field.

During former President Barack Obama’s eight years in office, the field was tilted heavily against us. Obama made no secret of his intent to destroy the coal industry and with it, the reasonably priced electric power generated from that fuel.

By his last year in office, Obama had enjoyed much success in that endeavor. Coal-fired power plants by the scores had been closed. Mines, many of them in West Virginia, were being shut down frequently.

Trump’s popularity in our state was due largely to his pledge to roll back the Obama war on coal and affordable electricity. He has been doing just that. It has paid off.

During 2016, Obama’s last year in office, 20,400 West Virginians were employed in mining and logging, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that combine the two occupations. By this July, the number had increased by 1,900.

So there has been progress. BLS analysts expect it to continue. Nationwide, 626,100 people work in the mining industry now, according to the agency. By 2026, the number is expected to increase to 716,900. At least some of those new jobs will be in West Virginia.

We in the Mountain State are realists. We understand a variety of challenges to our coal industry exist. Among them are cheap coal from western states, low-priced natural gas, declining reserves of easily minable coal here and yes, environmental regulations.

On the latter Trump is keeping his promise to restore the regulatory climate to one not biased heavily against coal. The level playing field for which we pleaded so long is being brought back.

And that is all we ask.

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