Trump got rid of restrictions on coal-fired plants. He let mining companies again dump their toxic wastes into local streams. This was a service to the flailing coal business, which also has a hold on local politicians. It is a disservice to the communities that wish to attract modern businesses that care about their environment.
Wyoming is the biggest coal-producing state. Mighty winds blow over its vast landscape, making it a potential wind power superpower. Unfortunately, the state levies a ludicrous tax on wind-produced electricity, obviously aimed at giving fossil fuels a competitive advantage. The state’s prospects for wind power are such that wind farms are being built there anyway. Imagine the fabulous clean-energy empire Wyoming could become if only the state’s politicians would get out of its way.
Life after coal
Appalachia extends to parts of 12 states and all of West Virginia. It is a generally poor region getting poorer and sicker as healthy, young people leave and as demand for coal plummets.
Trump’s policies, meanwhile, are making life tougher in these struggling areas. For example, his attacks on the Affordable Care Act have caused rural hospitals to close, making health care harder to find in isolated areas and draining away one of the few growing sources of good jobs.
What West Virginia has is a wonderful location. It is just east of bustling Columbus, Ohio, south of renaissance city Pittsburgh and west of the sprawling Washington/northern Virginia metroplex. It retains much natural beauty, and its people are famous for their strong work ethic. Why its economy remains stuck in an environmentally destructive rut is a story that’s been told by others.
We can understand why threats to the coal industry would irk those working in it. Offering alternatives is another matter but one that requires a higher quality of political leadership.
Coal country has to know that there is economic life after coal. But it has to believe in the promises of a different future.