How diminished is the coal industry? Consider that formerly ubiquitous retailer Sears has closed more than 3,000 stores. It is in bankruptcy. It may, in fact, be on the verge of disappearing completely. And yet Sears still employees more than 89,000 people. The whole coal mining industry—underground and surface, from Appalachia to the West—employs only 50,000. That’s not just the people who put on a hard hat: it’s every office worker and executive. Coal still contributes an out-sized chunk of revenue in a few states (notably Wyoming) through direct taxes on the coal produced, but nowhere in America does it remain a major source of employment. Even in West Virginia, the state with the most coal mining jobs in the nation, those jobs amount to less than 3 percent of the Mountain State’s full-time employment.
No matter how many times Donald Trump adds “Trump digs coal” to the chants at his rallies; no matter how many times squirrel whisperer Bob Murray provides hard-hat wearing miners to serve as props at Trump events; no matter how many times Trump reduces regulations on greenhouse gases, and coal mine waste, and toxic heavy metals, he can’t stop the crumbling of an industry that has been in decline for decades and is now being simply crushed by economics.
But that doesn’t mean that Trump, or his merry swamp full of corporate lobbyists, aren’t giving it their all. As Mother Jones reports, acing EPA chief Andrew Wheeler, who is now the nominee to be Scott Pruitt’s official replacement, has been coal mine owner Bob Murray’s faithful servant both as a lobbyist and at the EPA.
As with so many others who have received astounding levels of attention from the Trump White House, Murray contributed big to Trump’s bottomless inaugural fund. He also forced his miners to appear in Trump campaign ads and at Trump events. His payoff was total control over deregulation of mining at Trump’s anti-E EPA.
Murray, through Mike Pence, provided Trump with a four-page list outlining the actions he wanted out of Trump. And for those who have paid their membership fees, Trump’s new club in Washington delivers. Murray’s information went to not just the EPA, but the Department of Energy, and to the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
In less than a year, Murray got everything he asked for on the first page of his list. Everything.