WHEELING, W.Va. — While coal executives clashed with environmental advocates regarding Republican Donald Trump’s election as the 45th U.S. president, union workers struck a middle ground in reacting to the New York billionaire’s rise to power.
“It is a repudiation of the administration of Barack Obama and his appointed bureaucrats, and the Silicon Valley pay-to-play billionaires who are on the dole from America’s taxpayers, and the liberal elitists on Wall Street and in Hollywood, radical environmentalists, and some industries, such as the makers of costly windmills and solar panels,” said Robert E. Murray, who serves as chairman, president and CEO of Murray Energy Corp. “It is a victory for the working men and women of America.”
Murray, a longtime, vociferous critic of Obama and his Environmental Protection Agency, continues battling regulations such as the Clean Power Plan and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards in court. He plans to close the Powhatan No. 6 Mine in December, but has steadily reduced the number of active coal miners working at his various facilities throughout Obama’s presidency.
During the campaign, Trump often pledged to put coal miners back to work and help reopen mines that have closed while Obama has been in office.
“Mr. Trump has a mandate to carry out all of the policies that he said he would implement during his campaign. And, he has the courage, passion, and commitment to do so,” Murray said.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Murray was the nation’s fifth-largest coal producer in 2014, grinding out 62.8 million tons.
Three of the top five producers — Peabody Energy, Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources — have filed for bankruptcy during the last two years. Murray officials are trying to avoid this, according to published reports.
“I have personally spent time with Mr. Trump, and I know that he will surround himself with the very best people to fix the many problems facing our country. Indeed, Mr. Trump will finally implement a national energy policy whereby all energy sources will compete on a level playing field,” Murray added.
To say Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune sees the matter differently would be an understatement.
“For people all over the country, the pain, anger and fear at the prospect of a Trump presidency are very real,” he said. “People of color, Muslims, immigrants, women, the disabled — millions of Americans have been singled out and attacked by Donald Trump before he has even taken office.
“He can’t change the fact that the world is heating up and we are reaching a tipping point. He can’t change the fact that clean energy is cheaper than dirty fuels like coal and gas and nuclear power all over the country,” Brune continued. “He can’t change the fact that grassroots activists like the Sierra Club will keep fighting to close down coal plants and replace them with clean energy — and with nearly 250 on the path to retirement and many more to come, we’ve made it clear we can deliver on that promise.”
Meanwhile, United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil Roberts acknowledged many would be pleased with Trump’s election, while others would not.
“Working families in our nation’s coalfields are very concerned about their future, and they made their voices heard loud and clear yesterday. President-elect Trump has spoken many times about addressing the serious economic disaster that is affecting large areas of Appalachia and other coal-producing areas of our country by putting coal miners back to work.
“No one is more interested in doing just exactly that than the UMWA,” he said.
Roberts also urged Congress to return to work to ensure that health care and pension benefits for thousands of coal retirees do not expire at the end of the year.