On inauguration day, President Donald J. Trump promised America that “the forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.” In few areas was that promise better fulfilled than for American coal miners.
Before the president took office, eight years of the “War on Coal” had taken its toll on our proud and once thriving coal communities. Between January 2009 and February 2017, the coal mining industry lost 35,500 jobs. From a high in 2009, U.S. coal production had declined by nearly 350 million short tons by the end of 2016 as more than 700 coal mines closed throughout the country.
But now, that decline is over. President Trump has finally ended the “War on Coal.”
The president has acted quickly to remove regulations that were stifling the coal industry. He signed legislation to overturn the costly Stream Protection Rule within one month of his inauguration and issued an executive order two weeks later reviewing the Waters of the United States rule. The next month, the president featured coal workers prominently in his plan for American energy independence. He proposed repealing the so-called Clean Power Plan; lifted the ban on federal leasing for coal production; removed job-killing energy industry regulations, and returned power over local economies to the states.
We at the U.S Department of Commerce are working hard to help revitalize coal country and assist the president as he makes good on his promise to bring back jobs and hope to these forgotten Americans. Through our Economic Development Administration, we are providing new opportunities to Americans whose jobs were eradicated and whose communities were devastated by the antagonistic policies of the last administration.
To help coal country get back on its feet, the Department of Commerce has invested more than $60 million through 65 grants since Trump’s inauguration as part of the Assistance to Coal Communities (ACC) program. The ACC program, launched in June 2017, prioritizes efforts to build infrastructure and invest in the areas hardest hit by the erosion of the coal economy. According to estimates, the grants are expected to create or retain 13,882 jobs and attract over $1.1 billion in private investment across 19 states.
The Department of Commerce is proud to have helped coal communities in four states that have suffered most from the “War on Coal” — Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Since the president’s inauguration, Kentucky has been awarded nearly $15 million in grants, which will create an estimated 2,300 jobs, saving another 2,200, and setting the stage for $190 million in private investment.
West Virginia has been awarded more than $13 million in grants for projects expected to create 2,200 jobs, save over 700 jobs, and generate $108 million in private investment. These projects included $2.5 million to expand a manufacturing facility in Elkins, expected to retain 60 jobs, create 111 more and generate $16.9 million in private investment.
Pennsylvania, long a manufacturing center, has received almost $9 million for projects estimated to create 1,250 jobs, retain 100 jobs and stimulate $10 million in additional investment.
In Ohio, coal communities will benefit from $7.5 million in federal grant money, which is expected to create 390 jobs, save 226 and spur $31 million in private investment.
Taken together as a part of the president’s overall economic agenda, these Department of Commerce grants will help revitalize these forgotten communities.
We at the Department of Commerce could not be more pleased to work with President Trump as we invest in and create jobs in the coal communities that have suffered under the policies of the past. As the president promised during his inaugural address, all of America will thrive and prosper. That includes our forgotten coal communities.
Wilbur Ross is the U.S. secretary of commerce.
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- On November 16, 2018