The federal government’s latest jobs report shows 2,500 coal mining jobs were created in the last year, which is good news for coal country, but there’s still a long road to complete recovery.
The coal industry has lost 36,700 mining jobs since January 2012 the last time mine employment peaked. A series of coal plant closures driven by environmental regulations and low-priced natural gas caused demand to collapse, forcing mines to close.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates 53,000 coal miners were hard at work in April 2018, about 2,500 more than one year ago when 51,500 miners were employed. BLS said overall U.S. unemployment shrunk to 3.9 percent, the lowest in about 18 years.
Overall mining employment, including oil and gas and support activities, has boomed in the last year, growing from 612,300 jobs in April 2017 to 679,400 jobs in April 2018.
Coal mine production rose in 2017 due to overseas demand. Exports grew 70 percent during the first three quarters of 2017, largely because of growing demand in Asia. The global economy is also improving, which also increases demand.
The latest statistics from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) suggests productions is slightly down, but not by much. More coal plant closures are expected this year, according to EIA, but coal’s share of electricity generation is projected to hover around 30 percent.
Many experts attribute the rebound in coal mining to overall economic conditions. However, a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) credited Trump administration policies for brightening coal’s prospects.
“Measures introduced by the Federal government provided optimism to the sector,” IEA reported in 2017.
“Some regulations were reviewed and the financial environment for coal mining improved,” IEA reported. “The country’s first new coal mine since 2011 was opened in May and other projects were announced.”
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GOP Lawmakers Target ‘Tool Of Tyranny’ Obama’s EPA Used To Kill Mining Project
Republican lawmakers have been largely satisfied with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s work rolling back industry regulations, but they are voicing their disgust with his decision to keep in place a preemptive veto of an Alaskan mine project.
Eighteen GOP congressmen, led by the Western Congressional Caucus, issued a letter on Thursday to Pruitt, urging him to reverse course on his decision to maintain an Obama-era preemptive veto on the Pebble Mine project in southwest Alaska.
“We write to express our concerns with regard to the EPA’s decision not to scrap the Obama Administration’s preemptive veto, also known as the Proposed Determination, for the prospective Pebble Limited Partnership mining project,” the letter began, going into detail as to why the Obama administration was wrong to block proper review of the project.
“In a future administration, this dangerous precedent could be utilized as a tyrannical tool … It, therefore, poses a threat to the integrity of our entire project review system while casting the specter of a double standard over this particular project.”
Pebble Mine is the name of a proposed mining project in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska, an area that contains deposits of gold, porphyry, and molybdenum.
However, the project was derailed by the previous administration in a move that many critics framed as unlawful and unprecedented.
In February 2014, the Obama-led EPA vetoed Pebble’s progress before it received an environmental review from the Army Corps of Engineers — the regular process under the Clean Water Act.
Instead of weighing in upon the review, the EPA blocked the proposal by circumventing the entire process.
Pruitt gave indications that he would repeal this veto when he began at the EPA. However, in a surprise move, Pruitt announced on Jan. 26 he would be keeping Proposed Determination in place.
The EPA chief ultimately ruled that “any mining projects in the region likely pose a risk to the abundant natural resources that exist there.”
In its determination, the agency added that more than 1 million comments had been submitted to them, mainly in opposition to the project.
Pebble Mine proponents said Pruitt’s moves are tarnishing his reputation as a successful and prolific reformer of the agency he leads.
“The preemptive veto of the Pebble project in Alaska – a holdover of the Obama EPA – is the one glaring blemish staining Administrator Pruitt’s record,” said Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona in a statement issued Thursday. “This kind of power-grab has no place surviving into a Republican administration – not least because we know future Administrations would be glad to abuse such power in even more severe ways.”
Gosar is joined by a number of other Republicans and related association groups in calling for the veto to be struck.
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