‘We get overlooked’: Coal country not buying Biden’s ‘just transition to green energy’

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(Photo by Amir Arabshahi on Unsplash)

By Wallace White
Daily Caller News Foundation

Once-thriving communities in America’s coal country remain largely pessimistic towards President Joe Biden’s pledge of a “just transition” away from fossil fuels, the Washington Post reported.

In a bid to ease coal communities into the green energy shift away from fossil fuels, Biden established the Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization, and rolled out over $1 billion in tax credits through the Inflation Reduction Act, the Post reported. Yet, residents in hollowed-out towns that largely depended on a bustling coal industry say that the Biden administration has left them by the wayside.

“We get overlooked all the time,” said LuAnn Zak, assistant director of the Indiana County, Pennsylvania, Office of Planning and Development told the Post.

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Coal power plants have been disappearing across the nation, making up only 17% of generation in 2023, a record low, according to a study done by the Rhodium group.

“There’s nothing being put out to help energy workers,” Aric Baker, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 459, which had represented roughly 120 workers now laid off from the Homer City Generating Station, told the Post.

Biden has claimed his green energy agenda will usher in a new jobs boom in the U.S. However, a study from The University of Pennsylvania, Wake Forest University and labor market firm Lightcast, found that less than 1% of fossil fuel-related jobs transition into green energy jobs, and that the supposed benefits of the transition are unlikely to be evenly distributed geographically or socioeconomically across the U.S.

“Our union never endorsed either candidate because we didn’t see anybody saving our members’ jobs,” United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts told the Post. “People talk about a just transition, but there’s not any transition when something like this happens, when part of an economy collapses and thousands of people lose their jobs in the coal industry.”

Despite the criticisms of green policy’s immediate economic effects, Biden administration officials are attempting to make inroads in Pennsylvania’s coal communities ahead of the 2024 election, the Post reported.

In Indiana County, former President Donald Trump won 66.1% of the vote in 2016 and 68.2% in 2020. Trump’s pro-coal attitude has made him popular in recent years with a county that was solidly blue, the change punctuated by the election of Republican Rep. Guy Reschenthaler in 2018, according to the Post.

“During the Trump era, they talked about loosening [environmental] standards, but coal plants still closed. It was all talk,” said retired Homer City, Pennsylvania, coal maintenance worker Greg Fletcher to the Post. “As far as this industry goes, I don’t think [Biden has] done it any favors.”

“No one has done more damage to the American coal industry than Joe Biden. Joe Biden is controlled by environmental extremists who are trying to implement the most radical energy agenda in American history. President Trump ushered in unprecedented levels of energy independence for America, and he will do so again,” Trump campaign National Press Secretary Karoline Leavitt told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “When President Trump is back in the White House, he will unleash American energy sources like coal, oil, and gas to ensure affordability for families and security in the world by making us a more self-sufficient nation. Drill baby drill!”

The Biden campaign did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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