Trump Replaces Obama’s Ideological Attack on Coal Power With Something More Pragmatic

The Great River Energy Coal Creek Station coal plant near the Falkirk mine outside of Underwood, N.D., is the largest power plant in North Dakota. Forum file photo.

The Obama administration hated coal power. The former president’s detractors referred to his policy agenda in this policy area as a “war on coal,” and that wasn’t an exaggeration.

The so-called Clean Power Plan, among other policies, seemed organized more around an ideological objection to coal energy from coal than any desire for workable regulations that improve environmental conditions. But don’t take my word for it. Remember that Obama himself, before taking office, talked of bankrupting the coal industry. It should surprise us not at all that his policies, once in office, had that goal as their impetus.

While Trump has gone too far before in his pro-coal boosterism – his proposal of bailouts for the coal industry were a bridge too far – this proposal is only pro-coal in so far as it isn’t organized around a desire to bankrupt the coal industry.

But environmental policy is supposed to be about the environment, not the ideological goals of politicians. Which is why the Trump administration’s announcement of a replacement to the Obama-era policies – they’re calling it the “Affordable Clean Energy” rule – is a breath of fresh air.

Not surprisingly some are describing this move as some sort of a sop to the coal industry. The other side of the coin to the Obama administration’s anti-coal acrimony.

The reality is something else. While Trump has gone too far before in his pro-coal boosterism – his proposal of bailouts for the coal industry were a bridge too far – this proposal is only pro-coal in so far as it isn’t organized around a desire to bankrupt the coal industry.

It’s a recognition that one-size-fits-all federal policies may not be right for a coal industry that is exactly quite diverse. The coal we mine here in North Dakota, and the way we go about mining it, is very different from the coal in, say, Wyoming or Pennsylvania. The Trump plan allows for more local control over regulations the impacts of coal, and thus more flexibility, all while pursuing an overall goal of protecting the environment.

Where the Obama administration sought to protect the environment by driving the coal industry into the ground, the Trump administration recognizes that we can continue to use coal resources in an environmentally friendly way.

This is great news for North Dakota, where coal is bountiful and its development is both environmentally responsible and hugely beneficial, economically, to our state.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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