During the only hearing the EPA will hold about the repeal of the Clean Power Act, one coal industry executive took the time to thank God for electing Donald Trump.“It wasn’t Russia that intervened in our election process; it was divine intervention. Thank the Lord he guided these people in this country, the greatest country in the world, to elect Donald Trump,” Chris Hamilton, a senior vice president of the West Virginia Coal Association, said at the hearing in Charleston, West Virginia — the heart of coal country — on Tuesday.
EPA administrator Scott Pruitt has prioritized the undoing of the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s landmark policy aimed at reducing emissions from power production, and blames the regulation for the downfall of the coal industry. Democratic attorneys general in several states, however, have already vowed to fight a repeal and sue if necessary.Coal baron Bob Murray, CEO of Murray Energy, also praised Trump for policies that have already brought back 25,000 coal jobs. But according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics coal, the coal industry has only added about 2,000 jobs since Trump took office, up to about 52,000 employed in total, largely due to a brief blip of increased demand for coal from China. (Trump has repeatedly threatened to cut off trade with China if it doesn’t cut ties with North Korea.)In the last three decades, the U.S. coal industry workforce has decreased by 70 percent.But it wasn’t just coal’s top brass attended the hearing on Tuesday. Coal miners showed up, too, many in uniform.
The two-day hearing, taking place today and tomorrow, is the only one that Pruitt has scheduled to hear comments on his proposed repeal of the plan. The agency only gave a two-week window for people to sign up to have their voices heard and announced the hearing only in a press release.By contrast, the Obama administration held four hearings around the country during the comment process for passing the Clean Power Plan in 2015.“If the EPA receives a high volume of requests, we may continue the public hearing to November 30, 2017, an EPA spokesperson told VICE News. “EPA may also hold an additional hearing to be announced at a later date.”Cover image: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, left, shakes hands with coal miners during a visit to Consol Pennsylvania Coal Company’s Harvey Mine in Sycamore, Pa., Thursday, April 13, 2017.