Raney is referring to the 2016 White House budget, which contains the POWER+ Plan. The Obama Administration blames the problems in coal country on “booming natural gas production, declining costs for renewable energy, increases in energy efficiency, flattening electricity demand, and updated clean air standards.” These trends, according to the administration, are impacting workers and communities who have relied on the coal industry as a source of good jobs and economic prosperity. To help these communities adapt, the POWER+ Plan will invest in workers and jobs, addresses legacy costs in coal country, and drive development of coal technology.
Raney did the math and the plan would:
- Provide $200 million per year for five years to clean up abandoned mines;
- Provide $5 million for “brownfields” work to clean up coal-fired power plants;
- Provide $20 million to retrain ex-miners and help them find new jobs;
- Provide $25 million to the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) for efforts to create new businesses and upgrade infrastructure;
- Provide $6 million more for “place-based regional innovation efforts” to spur jobs in distressed coal communities; and
- Award $3.9 billion over a decade to shore up pensions and medical care for retired miners.
Making sure retirees and their surviving spouses are provided for is important, but as Raney explained, those pensions would likely not be in trouble today were it not for the actions of this administration.
The temporary aid, which adds insult to injury, amounts to $256 million for the first year and $200 million in the subsequent four years. There are approximately 13 states in the the ARC, so each one would receive a fraction of the money. Any engineer would immediately recognize that $200 million, let alone $5 million, would not be enough money to accomplish a whole lot. But, what Raney wisely pointed out is that this will come from the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) fund, which was funded by coal operators.
Prior to the “war on coal,” Raney explained that the coal industry historically provided about $3.4 billion each year in wages in West Virginia alone, and $26 billion each year to the gross state product. The Obama Administration has stripped the Mountain State (and other coal-producing states) of a vital economic base. To appease his guilt, he is giving them a fraction of their money back.
Steve Fiscor, Coal Age Editor-in-Chief