December 10, 2022

Coal miner deaths just skyrocketed under Trump

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The resurgence of American coal that Trump repeatedly promised during his mendacious presidential campaign is never coming. Increasingly, the world is moving towards clean, renewable sources of energy, and there is nothing our incompetent president can do to stop that trend. Fossil fuels will be phased out over time, as alternatives methods become cheaper and more widely available.


That’s good news for a world facing existentially dangerous climate change, but bad news for the men and women have made their living off coal for generations. They’ll need to be provided with job retraining or will be forced to move in much the same way that farmers during the Dust Bowl era were forced to abandon their farms and relocate.

Unfortunately, Reuters reports that Trump’s coal boasting — a strangely prominent aspect of his rhetoric despite the fact that the most recent study in 2014 showed that only some 76,572 Americans are employed in the coal industry — has encouraged many people to refuse federally provided retraining, as they hold out hope for Trump’s unlikely resurgence.

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Now, a new bit of data offers another strong argument for shifting away from coal mining permanently. 2017 saw the largest increase in workplace coal deaths in three years, reports The Hill. Fifteen people died on the job, almost double the amount from 2016. The most recent, tragic death was that of Thurman Watts, who was killed by machinery going over a wall.

Again, it must be pointed out that the government offers to help miners find safer jobs by learning computer programming and a bevy of other career-focused training courses, but Trump’s stubbornness and lies have persuaded them to reject the overtures.

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What’s more, it seems unlikely that safety standards will improve under Trump. The Hill also reports that the president’s nominee to lead the Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration, David Zatezalo, is a former coal mining executive with a history of safety violation under his watch.

The Senate voted on Zatezalo’s appointment in November, and at his hearing he admitted that he wasn’t proud of his former company’s safety record. Every Democrat voted against him, and every Republican in favor of him, demonstrating once again that the GOP is fully willing to overlook the safety of American workers in their zeal to deregulate industries.

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The fact that Trump would choose a man with a troubling past with workplace safety to head the agency in charge of enforcing workplace safety is a part of a long trend of the president appointing people whose past seems to indicate they are unfit to hold their given governmental position. It’s a fitting habit for a man who is so clearly unfit to hold his own current office.

Robert Haffey

Robert Haffey is a political writer, filmmaker, and winner of the ScreenCraft Writing Fellowship. He is a graduate of Drexel University.

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