For the Kentucky Coal Association, the election of President Donald Trump gave us hope. Instead of vilifying coal like President Barack Obama did, the Trump administration recognizes that coal is a reliable and affordable source of energy.
Coal powers our homes and businesses, and the low energy costs it provides gives the commonwealth a competitive advantage when attracting new employers and jobs. Most members of Kentucky’s congressional delegation have been fighting against the “war on coal” for many years, and Trump has been a fierce ally in getting meaningful regulatory relief across the finish line.
I want to take this opportunity to thank our elected officials who’ve been working to undo some of the damage from the last eight years.
When Trump entered office, Congress and this administration came together to overturn the Obama-era stream buffer rule that attempted to make coal too expensive to mine or use. Even worse, the rule could have put as many as one-third of coal-related jobs at risk.
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Sen. Mitch McConnell used his role as majority leader to prioritize the repeal of this regulation by introducing a resolution to overturn this anti-coal rule, the first regulation overturned by the Senate this year. I was proud to stand with McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul as Trump signed the resolution into law, signaling a new era for federal treatment of Kentucky coal.
Next, Trump used a pair of executive orders to dismantle other devastating anti-coal regulations. First, he stopped a rule that tried to extend the federal bureaucracy into nearly every pothole, ditch and puddle — often referred to as the waters of the U.S. rule. Then, his Energy Independence Executive Order initiated the repeal of a pair of regulations seeking to close existing coal-fired plants across the nation and prevent new ones from being built.
KCA also thanks Trump for his recent decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. McConnell and Paul joined a letter in the Senate and representatives Andy Barr and James Comer signed onto a similar letter in the House urging the president to protect Kentucky coal communities and withdraw the U.S. from this unattainable agreement.
In addition to helping deliver regulatory relief to struggling coal communities, Kentucky senators and representatives have also secured new research funding to support technological advancements for coal. The most recent government-funding legislation included over $660 million to support a Department of Energy program focused on developing new coal technology, which is important to keeping coal competitive.
The industry simply wants to get Washington bureaucracy out of the way so that coal can compete on the open market. Those who blame coal’s downturn on cheap natural gas prices are missing the full picture and are too quick to forget natural gas’ characteristic price volatility. When the Obama administration put coal at a disadvantage, the marketplace followed that direction.
Although it will take some time to recover from the Obama administration’s regulatory damage, I am encouraged that we have recently seen slight increases in coal production in some places and some federal projections estimate increased production over the next few years. It’s too early to say whether a trend in increased coal production will come to fruition, but the regulatory relief has restored some hope.
Trump and leaders in Congress like McConnell have created an optimism about coal by offering their support to struggling communities. As a result, we have seen idle mines start back production and new companies begin operations in some of the most devastated regions of our state. We know that there is still much work to do for Kentucky’s coal country but together we are making strides in a positive direction.
Tyler White is president of the Kentucky Coal Association.