Monday, November 28, 2016

Appalachia's 'forgotten people' count on Trump to fulfill promise to revive coal industry, bring jobs

Williamson, W.Va. (Best Places map)
Residents in depressed Appalachian coal communities who have said national politicians have forgotten them are now turning their hope to the White House and the man who promised to revive the coal industry, Sheryl Gay Stolberg reports for The New York Times. After winning the presidency—with huge support from Appalachia—Donald Trump echoed his campaign pledge, saying he would "create 'many millions of high-paying jobs' in energy, including coal," Stolberg notes. "Appalachians are eyeing Washington with a feeling they have not had in years; hope."

Trump's pledge will be "very difficult to keep," Stolberg writes, citing an earlier Times story and noting: "Utility companies have drastically reduced their reliance on coal, in part because of President Obama’s aggressive regulations to cut emissions that cause global warming, but also because natural gas is cheaper. Nationally, about 300 coal-fired power plants have closed since 2008, according to the National Mining Association, an industry group." Even if Trump undoes Obama's policies, many of those power plants are not coming back.

"But in this land of staggering beauty and economic pain, Trump backers said over and over again that while coal might never be what it once was, the businessman they helped send to the White House could indeed put them back to work—if not in mining, then in some other industry," Stolberg writes. "People in Appalachia are tired: tired of seeing their loved ones, and especially their children, leave for work in other states; tired of being viewed as ignorant hillbillies by well-to-do urbanites who do not recognize that when a family has been somewhere for generations, it is not so easy to pack up and leave; tired of feeling tired."

Natalie Taylor, executive director of the Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce in Williamson, W.Va., told Stolberg that it didn't take much for Trump to win over Appalachia: “We’re a forgotten people. He mentions West Virginia, he mentions the coal workers, and that was pretty much all he had to do to seal this deal." (Read more)

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