Min­ers get what they wanted

But rules roll­back to hit coal coun­try hard, anal­y­sis says

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Money - By Ellen Knickmeyer and John Raby As­so­ci­ated Press

GRANT TOWN, W.Va. — It’s coal peo­ple like miner Steve Knotts, 62, who make West Vir­ginia Trump Coun­try.

So it was no sur­prise that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump picked the state to an­nounce his plan rolling back Obama-era pol­lu­tion con­trols on coal-fired power plants.

Trump left one thing out of his re­marks, though: north­ern West Vir­ginia coal coun­try will be ground zero for in­creased deaths and ill­nesses from the roll­back on reg­u­la­tion of harm­ful emis­sion from the na­tion’s coal power plants.

An anal­y­sis done by his own En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency con­cludes that the plan would lead to a greater num­ber of peo­ple here dy­ing pre­ma­turely, and suf­fer­ing health prob­lems that they other­wise would not have, than else­where in the coun­try, when com­pared to health im­pacts of the Obama plan.

Knotts, a coal miner for 35 years, isn’t fazed when he hears that, a cou­ple of days af­ter Trump’s West Vir­ginia rally. He says the last thing peo­ple in coal coun­try want is the gov­ern­ment slap­ping more con­trols on coal — and the air here in the re­mote West Vir­ginia moun­tains seems fine to him.

“Peo­ple here have had it with other peo­ple telling us what we need. We know what we need. We need a job,” Knotts said at lunch hour at a Cir­cle K in a tiny town be­tween two coal mines, and nine miles down the road from a coal power plant, the Grant Town plant.

The sky around Grant Town is bright blue. The moun­tains are a daz­zling Rolling back pol­lu­tion con­trols on coal-fired power plants will hit north­ern W.Va. coal coun­try hard, an EPA anal­y­sis says.

green. Paw Paw Creek gur­gles past the town.

Clean-air con­trols since the 1980s turned off the col­umns of black soot that used to rise from coal smoke­stacks. The reg­u­la­tions slashed the na­tional death rates from coal-fired power plants sub­stan­tially.

These days pol­lu­tants rise from smoke stacks as gases, be­fore so­lid­i­fy­ing into fine par­ti­cles — still invisible — small enough to pass through lungs and into blood­streams.

An EPA anal­y­sis says those pol­lu­tants would in­crease un­der Trump’s plan, when com­pared to what would hap­pen un­der the Obama plan. And that, it says, would lead to thou­sands more heart at­tacks, asthma prob­lems and other ill­nesses that would not have oc­curred.

Na­tion­ally, the EPA says, 350 to 1,500 more peo­ple

would die each year un­der Trump’s plan.

But it’s the north­ern twothirds of West Vir­ginia and the neigh­bor­ing part of Penn­syl­va­nia that would be hit hard­est, by far, ac­cord­ing to Trump’s EPA.

Trump’s roll­back would kill an ex­tra 1.4 to 2.4 peo­ple a year for ev­ery 100,000 peo­ple in those hard­est-hit ar­eas, com­pared to un­der the Obama plan, ac­cord­ing to the EPA anal­y­sis. For West Vir­ginia’s 1.8 mil­lion peo­ple, that would be equal to at least a cou­ple of dozen ad­di­tional deaths a year.

Trump’s act­ing EPA ad­min­is­tra­tor, An­drew Wheeler, a for­mer coal lob­by­ist whose grand­fa­ther worked in the coal camps of West Vir­ginia, headed to coal states this week and last to pro­mote Trump’s roll­back. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s re­treat on reg­u­lat­ing pol­lu­tion from coal

power plants was “good news,” Wheeler told crowds there.

In Washington, EPA spokesman Michael Ab­boud said Trump’s plan still would re­sult in “dra­matic re­duc­tions” in emis­sions, deaths and ill­ness com­pared to the sta­tus quo, in­stead of to the Obama plan. Obama’s Clean Power Plan tar­geted cli­mat­e­chang­ing car­bon diox­ide, but since coal is the largest source of car­bon diox­ide from fos­sil fu­els, the Obama plan would have curbed other harm­ful emis­sions from the coal-fired power plants as well.

About 160 miles to the south of Grant Town, near Charleston, shop owner Doris Keller fig­ures that if Trump thinks some­thing’s for the best, that’s good enough for her.

“I just know this. I like Don­ald Trump, and I think

that he’s do­ing the right thing,” said Keller, who turned out to sup­port Trump on Aug. 21 when he pro­moted his roll­back pro­posal. She lives 5 miles from the 2,900-megawatt John Amos coal-fired power plant.

“I think he has the best in­ter­ests of the reg­u­lar com­mon peo­ple at the fore­front,” Keller says.

Trump’s Af­ford­able Clean En­ergy pro­gram would dis­man­tle Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s 2015 Clean Power Plan, which has been caught up in court bat­tles with­out yet be­ing im­ple­mented.

The Obama plan tar­geted cli­mate-chang­ing emis­sions from power plants, es­pe­cially coal. It would have in­creased fed­eral reg­u­la­tion of emis­sions from the na­tion’s elec­tri­cal grid and broadly pro­moted nat­u­ral gas, so­lar power and other cleaner en­ergy.

Trump’s plan would cede much of the fed­eral over­sight of ex­ist­ing coal-fired power plants and drop of­fi­cial pro­mo­tion of cleaner en­ergy. In­di­vid­ual states would de­cide how much to reg­u­late coal power plants in their bor­ders. The plan is open for pub­lic re­view, ahead of any fi­nal White House de­ci­sion.

“I’m get­ting rid of some of these ridicu­lous rules and reg­u­la­tions, which are killing our com­pa­nies and our jobs,” Trump said at the rally.

There was no men­tion of the “small in­creases” in harm­ful emis­sions that would re­sult, com­pared to the Obama plan, or the health risks.

EPA charts put num­bers on just how many more peo­ple would die each year be­cause of those in­creased coal emis­sions.

Ab­boud and spokes­woman Ash­ley Bourke of the Na­tional Min­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, which sup­ports Trump’s pro­posed reg­u­la­tory roll­back on coal emis­sions, said other fed­eral pro­grams al­ready reg­u­late harm­ful emis­sions from coal power plants.

With com­pe­ti­tion from nat­u­ral gas and other cleaner en­ergy help­ing to kill off more than a third of coal jobs over the last decade, po­lit­i­cal lead­ers in coal states are in no po­si­tion to be the ones charged with en­forc­ing pub­lic-health pro­tec­tions on sur­viv­ing coal-fired power plants, said Vi­vian Stock­man of the Ohio Valley En­vi­ron­men­tal Coali­tion.

“Our state is be­holden to coal. Our politi­cians are be­holden to coal,” Stock­man said out­side Trump’s West Vir­ginia rally, where she was protest­ing. “Mean­while, our peo­ple are be­ing poi­soned.”

And when it comes to coal power plants and harm, Schneider said, “when you’re at Grant Town, you’re at Ground Zero.”

JOHN RABY/AP

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