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OPINION: President Trump, the war on coal doesn’t exist

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The President is fighting a war the doesn't exist. Photo left via pixabay. Photo right via White House.

President Trump is fighting a war that does not exist, opinion writer Anna DeGarmo argues.

As I’ve argued before, the executive branch under the Trump administration has a great deal of influence over the Environmental Protection Agency. Recently, this influence led to the retraction of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) by the agency. Trump continues to unravel legislation aimed at combating climate change. He makes it appear as if he is making good on his campaign promise to end the Obama era supposed “war on coal.”

Ohio’s coal industry is declining, but the repeal of the CPP will not make matters better.

So, what does the reversal of the CPP mean for the current state coal industry? Not much. The CPP proposed pollution standards appropriate for each state. The plan itself was never officially implemented in Ohio. Ohio was one of the 28 states who sued the EPA in order to block the legislation.

In a WOSU article, Tim Rudell quoted state EPA spokesperson Heidi Griesmer as saying that “Ohio has not actively worked on the Clean Power Plan since it was stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court in February 2016.” If the CPP was dormant in Ohio, the war was in a stalemate (if there was a war at all).

Long before Trump entered office, the coal industry in Appalachia began its decline. The Brookings Institute reported that technology began replacing human jobs in the 1980s. The report predicts more mining jobs will be lost within the next ten years. Cost-effective surface mining activities began moving west to places like Wyoming. In 2015, Wyoming production mines had 27 times the recoverable reserves in Ohio. Wyoming also had an average recovery rate of 91 percent, whereas Ohio’s average recovery rate was only 56 percent. Ohio’s shale fields also make natural gas a serious competitor for the slowing coal industry.

A Columbus Gazette article from Oct. 12 claimed that repealing the CPP won’t save Ohio’s coal companies, noting that 2 of Ohio’s 10 coal fired power plants are shutting down next year. Those still running are operating way under full capacity. Energy companies are looking to renewable resources for innovation. These events are occurring with or without the CPP.

Reversal of the CPP isn’t a win for coal companies, it is a lost opportunity for the country and Ohio. Samantha Williams, of the National Resource Defense Council, writes that the CPP could have provided federal funding for renewable energy facilities. Kathiann Kowalski of the Midwest Energy News notes that the CPP could have lowered the pollution rate, reduced human health costs and shifted the nation to renewable resources.

With Trump in office, it is unlikely any replacement legislation will look like the CPP. Between Trump and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, delay at the federal level is inevitable. Thus, it is up to Ohio to move forward in its clean energy standards. This would include passing Senate Bill 188 and 184 to ease restrictions on wind farm turbine zoning and voting against House Bill 114 to keep Ohio’s energy standards strong.

The war on coal does not exist. Ohio’s coal industry was declining long prior to the CPP in response to economic conditions, technological advances and recognition of pollution and climate change consequences. The CPP repeal won’t revive the coal industry, and it definitely didn’t kill it. The repeal is simply a setback for renewable energy businesses, a perpetuation of pollution and an ignorance of human health cost. It is up to Ohio to make sure our state is moving in the right direction, with or without the CPP.

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