Early last year, President Donald Trump signed an executive order reversing the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. He told the assembled coal miners that the move promised boom times ahead. “You know what this says?” Trump asked. “You’re going back to work.”
Ten months later, the results are mixed. Behold the facts:
- Jobs gained, jobs lost: Total U.S. coal employment was up about 1.6 percent last year, with most new coal jobs added in Virginia and West Virginia. But preliminary federal data obtained by Reuters shows that nearly two-thirds of coal-producing states reported coal job losses, including Ohio, Kentucky, Montana, Wyoming, and Texas.
- Closure ahead: About half of the gains in coal jobs will be wiped out if the 4 West Mine in Pennsylvania closes this summer as scheduled, laying off around 400 coal workers.
- Coal jobs near historic low: Some 50,000 people work in the coal industry, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s roughly one-third of what it was in the late ’80s.
- More miner deaths: Last year saw 15 workplace-related coal worker deaths, an increase from nine in 2016.
- Demand still sliding: Thanks to the usual suspects of cheap natural gas and falling costs for solar and wind power, old coal plants are getting less competitive, and U.S. demand for the fuel is decreasing.
One year after Trump was sworn in, his dreams of rolling back environmental policies have come true. But his promise to bring back coal is another story.