COLLEGE PARK, Maryland — President Trump said Tuesday he hoped newly-ordered rollbacks of Obama-era power plant emission regulations would help put coal miners back to work.
A CNS analysis of coal mining employment and production shows that the number of coal jobs fell sharply in Maryland well before President Obama got to office, and stayed relatively constant during Obama’s first term.
Trump said his executive order directing the Environmental Protection Agency to roll back power plant emission regulations would bring about a resurgence in coal mining. President Obama’s 2015 Clean Power Plan “would have closed hundreds of coal-fired power plants,” according to The New York Times. The Supreme Court halted the plan’s enforcement while lower courts litigated its fate.
Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association, which lobbies for the mining industry, said he hoped Trump’s actions would improve coal’s investment outlook.
“While [the actions are] not going to cause a drastic shift in the near term, it will cause the market to adjust because there will be greater confidence in coal,” Popovich said. “Because we’re not having to fight our own government. We can compete in the market on a more fair basis.”
Popovich also added that increased production of natural gas significantly impacted the coal mining industry during the past decade.
The Environmental Defense Fund, a national organization that lobbies for environmental causes, decried Trump’s actions in a news release Monday ahead of Trump’s signing the order.
“This executive order points us backwards to an era of more pollution and more disease,” the group’s president, Fred Krupp, said in the news release.
The CNS analysis of Maryland coal mining data from 1950 through 2013 shows that the number of workers in the state didn’t change drastically during the Obama administration, hovering around 400 people — a number that hasn’t changed much since the turn of the millennium.
But nationally, “We have seen great volatility in employment in the past 15 years,” Popovich said.
Coal production did drop from 2008 to 2013, during Obama’s term in office, but it was relatively small compared to a drastic production drop of more than 2.5 million tons between 2006 and 2007.
Mettiki Coal Mine in Garrett County, then the state’s largest mine, closed in 2006 when coal ran out, according to a 2006 Baltimore Sun article, moving its operations to West Virginia. According to the Sun, Mettiki Mine accounted for 2.5 million tons of coal production in the year before it closed.
A representative for Mettiki’s successor mine, Mountain View Mine in West Virginia, did not immediately respond to a telephone message requesting comment.
Other notable trends in the data include a peak in employment in 1950 that rapidly declined even as production slowly ramped up. Production and employment rose in tandem from the late 1960s to 1981, when employment began to drop even as production steadily increased before the 2006 dropoff.
A Bureau of Mines official said the office was not permitted to speak with media and a telephone message left with its director seeking comment through proper channels was not immediately returned.
Capital News Service data journalist Helen Lyons contributed to this story.