But first, some relevant information about coal:
One of the big campaign promises oft repeated during the 2016 presidential election was that of “bringing back coal”, a promise so deceitful as to defy any sense of logic. As President Obama so famously stated during one of the 2012 presidential debates in response to a Mitt Romney criticism that the US Navy had fewer ships than in the past, Obama stated that the military “also had fewer bayonets”, clearly making the point that progress marches on and that what was needed in 1920 was no longer useable in the 21st century. Centuries of coal mining caused hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of formerly able-bodied men to suffer excruciating, debilitating illnesses, injuries and untimely deaths, but the lack of energy alternatives made the industry a necessity. In society today, however, the need for coal is virtually nonexistent, and will be totally nonexistent, perhaps by the end of this decade. Replaced by modernization in manufacturing, transportation, and commercial and residential heating, and now too expensive for virtually any use due to the flow of cheap natural gas, the coal industry is dead and no effort at resuscitation could ever again make it profitable, though of course
Fossil fuel industry observer Dieter Helm explains how the global move toward the "internet-of-things" will inexorably reduce the demand for oil, gas, and renewables - and prove more effective than current efforts to avert climate change.
misplaced government policy and resultant subsidies could expand its existence as a folly of magnificent proportions, and regrettably, that seems to have been the plan of the current administration.
Let there be no worry that the current administration is actually friendly to coal workers (as opposed of course to bring “friendly” to the ownership of what is left of the coal industry – much more on that to follow) as the initial releases of the administration’s proposed budget included massive cuts to federal programs such as the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the U.S. Economic Development Administration, which do what? Oh, yes, they re-train coal miners to work in other, growing, expanding industries. As a note, while the occupier of the Oval Office traversed coal country during the campaign making absurd promises he knew could never be kept, his rhetoric of lies and deceit garnered winning votes in 400 of the 420 counties where the ARC operates, and now it is his plan to abandon those voters, and end their hopes and ambitions of better jobs and of better lives.
But conversely, he will never abandon guys like Bob Murray and his Murray Energy Corporation, owner and operator of a significant percentage of the mines still operating in the coal industry. Murray and his company (hereinafter referred to collectively as “Murray”) have a virtually unparalleled record of safety violations and tragic accidents, overlaying years of political activity and contribution that has had a sole purpose of protecting the dying industry against scientific reality and progress. Murray has donated untold millions of dollars to republican politicians in federal, state and local elections over many years, and to political action committees, all done to prevent the expansion of safety requirements in the coal mining industry and to protect the moribund industry from legislation and regulation to counter climate change.
Murray’s record of violations and catastrophes includes the collapse of his Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah in 2007, following a history of the facility receiving 64 prior safety violations and which resulted in close to $2 Million in fines, and his Illinois Galatia mine having received an astounding 3,500 safety violations in a two-and-a-half-year period. Murray’s response to all this was the same as always, and as continues today, instead of
promoting and working for mine safety, he instead throws more and more money at politicians to curtail government efforts to enhance industry safety and to repeal existing safety regulations.
Murray has also been engaged in a decade of propaganda and deceit on the issue of climate change, sparing no cost and refraining from no opportunity to promote the lie of climate change denial. It was widely reported that it was Murray, among others, that used his considerable influence as a campaign donor and outspoken leader in the fossil fuel industry to urge the current occupier of the Oval Office to withdraw US support and involvement from international agreements on climate change, including the Paris Agreement.
So what has all this to do with the EPA? Well, it has now been revealed that the current occupier of the Oval Office will be appointing Andrew R. Wheeler to the position of EPA Deputy Administrator to Scott Pruitt, becoming the number two power at this vitally important agency. And just who is Andrew R. Wheeler? Wheeler is and has been for almost a decade the lobbyist for Murray, taking Murray’s message of no safety, no regulation, and climate change denial to the politicians making laws in Washington and in statehouse across the country.
Following the 2016 election, Wheeler wrote the article “What To Expect From Trump’s Environmental Policies” in which he outlines what he saw coming with the new administration’s climate and environmental policy, and now he will be in a position to implement much of what he anticipated.
For example, in his article Wheeler discussed the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act and the fact that the new administration will “play a large role in
crafting how this new law is interpreted”. Well, just guess how Pruitt, Wheeler, and others following the stone-age science they follow and their over-riding collective goal of protecting corporate profit will be “crafting” regulations implementing such protective measures as this.
As horrid a leader of the EPA as Pruitt is, with Wheeler as second in command, the future of the environment, of protecting human needs and preserving wildlife, of retaining what we have today let alone attempts at reversing the devastation of recent decades, is much more precarious, with the future of the earth and of mankind swaying in the balance.