President Donald Trump campaigned heavily on making coal great again, aligning himself with the nation’s miners and promising their jobs would return, but so far his promises have amounted to little more than pandering.
In fact, it is the owners of America’s coal mines who have benefited most under the Trump administration, and the rank-and-file miners have been left in the coal dust.
NBC News noted that 2018 was second only to 2015 in terms of the number of coal plants that were shuttered, and the Trump administration has also weakened safety protections for miners — protections put in place following deadly mine collapses.
Failing pensions have rocked the mining community as well, with countless retired miners — some battling black lung disease — petitioning the federal government for help with shoring up their pension plans.
Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has tweeted at the president every day for the last seven months, according to NBC News, “asking him to help protect the retired coal miners living in fear of losing everything.”
Trump has not responded publicly, the news outlet noted.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), whose state is home to some 6,000 coal miners, has blocked another piece of legislation that would help out the miners’ pension fund.
Still, the White House insists that America’s coal miners are “winning” under the Trump presidency, with spokesperson Judd Deere telling NBC News in a statement:
“The President is committed to all Americans, including our great hardworking coal miners. It is because of President Trump’s economic policies of tax cuts, deregulation— including rolling back the previous administration’s harmful and unlawful so-called Clean Power Plan — and energy independence that coal miners are winning.”
While plenty of miners might debate Deere’s statement, coal mine owners likely would not.
This group constitutes Trump’s fifth largest source of individual/family contributions, NBC News reported, “directing at least $6.1 million toward joint fundraising committees, his inauguration and related super PACs.”
Those donations appear to have brought a nice return:
“[T]hey’ve won plenty of regulatory breaks in return, most notably a rollback of the Clean Power Plan, which President Barack Obama enacted in 2014 to help curb carbon emissions,” NBC noted.
And Trump “has also loosened rules governing coal ash disposal and mercury pollution from power plants. A former coal lobbyist, Andrew Wheeler, now leads a shrinking Environmental Protection Agency.”
In the meantime, retired miners like Tom Phillips, who cast a vote for Trump in 2016, are walking the halls of Congress trying to get the attention of the very government that Trump promised would help them.
“We’ve worked years in the coal mines. It was promised to us," he said of miners' pensions. “I don’t know what to do anymore.”