Coal Company With Ties To Trump Administration Received $10M Small Business Loan
An Indiana-based coal company received a $10 million small business loan from the federal government's relief program intended to help small businesses survive the coronavirus pandemic.
The Washington Post reported that Hallador Energy has well over the 500 employees of the standard business receiving loans from the program, owing to Small Business Administration guidelines that allow "some bituminous-coal-mining firms with up to 1,500 employees" to qualify for the loans.
What’s more, Hallador also has at least two ties to the Trump administration, according to the report: “Scott Pruitt, the former Environmental Protection Agency administrator, was hired last year to lobby for the publicly traded firm in Indiana; and the company’s former government relations director now works at the Energy Department.”
The $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program, which ran out of funds last week, has been accessed by many firms far larger than the intended companies with fewer employees. As of March 9, Hallador employed 768 workers, down from 915 at the beginning of the year.
The Post noted that “with a market valuation of about $21 million, though, Hallador is still not most people’s idea of a small business.”
But SBA spokeswoman Carol Wilkerson told the newspaper on Tuesday that “Under SBA’s Small Business Size Standards, mining operations allows for more than 500 employees.”
Hallador is one of many coal companies suffering as cheaper and cleaner energy options vie for market share.
“Hallador and its main subsidiary, Sunrise Coal, has shrunk as coal-fired electricity generation in Indiana fell by 30 percent over the past decade because of stiff competition from cheaper gas and wind sources,” The Post reported.
But President Donald Trump and others in his administration have shown a soft spot for the coal industry, including Pruitt, who upon taking the post of EPA administrator began “unraveling rules designed to reduce pollution from the mining and burning of coal.”
After he left the administration due to ethics and management questions, Pruitt was tapped by Hallador to mount an ultimately unsuccessful campaign to “persuade Indiana state legislators to stop two of the state’s electric utilities from moving forward with plans to close most of their coal plants.”
The company’s second link to Trump involves a former Hallador employee:
Suzanne Jaworowski, Hallador’s former communications and government affairs director, now works as a senior adviser at the Energy Department’s Office of Nuclear Energy. She was also the state campaign director in Indiana for Trump’s 2016 presidential run.
Democrats and environmental groups have insisted that oil, gas and coal firms not be permitted to benefit from coronavirus relief money — another round of which is likely to pass soon — as those companies only fuel climate change.
“With small businesses shuttering their doors and unemployment skyrocketing to historic levels, shifting millions of taxpayer-funded bailout dollars to dirty, polluting corporations is only the latest example of the corruption derailing America’s economic recovery under the Trump administration,” Jayson O’Neill, executive director of the left-leaning advocacy group Western Values Project, told The Post.
Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) also was dismayed by the news, tweeting, “No bailouts for the fossil fuel industry.”