Trump’s shameful returned favor to a major coal CEO for campaign donations just got revealed

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After donating millions to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, super PACs and inaugural, while encouraging his friends in the coal industry to do the same, outspoken Murray Energy Corp. CEO Bob Murray didn’t wait long after the election to send the new president his wish list of changes needed to bolster the slumping coal industry and keep his company from going bankrupt.

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Murray and his team even included drafts for executive orders to make the U.S. the only major nation not participating in the Paris Agreement, as well as suggested language to exempt coal-fired power plants from having to obey new environmental regulations, according to revelations in a new trove of documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by E & E (Energy & Environment) News.

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Trump has since fulfilled more than half of the items on Murray’s wish list, including withdrawing from the Paris Agreement and rolling back regulations put in place under President Obama which protected water quality around mines, cleaned the air around coal-fired electric plants and kept disease-causing dust out of the lungs of miners.

In March 2017, Murray’s campaign not only reached Trump but also Energy Secretary Rick Perry and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, among others, which led to unpublicized meetings with top coal company officials about what the industry wanted to be done, the new documents reveal.

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Murray asked for orders suspending EPA rules, reports E & E, “including regulations for effluent limitations, coal combustion residuals, the utility MACT (Utility Maximum Achievable Control Technology) rule, ozone, and the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s dust rule.”

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Among those who played a central role in arranging the secretive meetings with top Trump administration officials was Andrew Wheeler, then Murray’s Washington, D.C. lobbyist, who now is the EPA’s Deputy Administrator– in other words, the fox is now in charge of the henhouse. 

“The emails raise new questions about FirstEnergy’s efforts to influence policymakers at the Department of Energy,” reports E & E.

One item that big coal pushed was a plan to force power companies to keep huge stockpiles of coal in reserve, rather than just ordering supplies as needed, by painting it as a “strategic” need for “national security” in case of an emergency.

Perry put forward the plan and tried hard to sell it but it was shot down by the Federal   Energy Regulatory Commission.

Last week, Perry was back with a new plan that bypasses the regulators to achieve a similar goal by creating a “Strategic Electric Generation Reserve,” reported Bloomberg News, with the aim of promoting the national defense and maximizing domestic energy supplies.

It is also intended to save coal-fired plants that the power generation companies consider outmoded and inefficient because of the availability of lower cost and cleaner natural gas, as well as the growth of alternative energy sources.

“Trump administration officials are making plans to order grid operators to buy electricity from struggling coal and nuclear plants in an effort to extend their life,” reported Bloomberg, “a move that could represent an unprecedented intervention into U.S. energy markets.”

Murray, who either believes the climate change crisis is a hoax or doesn’t care because he’s profiting off of dirty energy, has donated to other candidates over the years including Mitt Romney when he ran for president in 2012, but nothing like his all-out effort to get Trump elected. 

In June 2016, Murray Energy’s PAC gave $100,000 to Trump’s joint fundraising committee.

Overall, Trump’s campaign got $240,000 from employees or PACs of coal companies.

Murray and the industry also gave $1.1 million to pro-Trump outside super PACs including Future45 and Rebuilding America Now.

Murray hosted a fundraiser for Trump and employees at his company donated another $103,000 to his campaign.

Murray Energy also donated $250,000 to the Cleveland Host Committee for the Republican National Convention.

After the election, Murray donated another $300,000 to fund Trump’s inauguration.

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“Trump is proving to be a worthwhile investment for an industry that contributed far more to getting him elected than to any other presidential hopeful,” added Open Secrets.

For all that investment, so far the results have not been impressive, because no matter what the government does, the forces of the marketplace are more powerful and coal is still old news in a world that is excited about new sources of cleaner, cheaper energy.

“Despite Trump’s campaign pledges to put scores of coal miners back to work by ending what he and Murray have derided as Obama’s “War on Coal,” the administration’s regulatory rollback has thus far had modest economic benefits,” reports USA Today.

“Only about 500 coal mining jobs were added in Trump’s first year, bringing the total to about 50,900 nationally, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics,” continues USA Today.

“The nation’s utilities,” adds USA Today, “have also continued to shutter coal-fired plants in favor of those burning natural gas made cheaper and more abundant by new drilling technologies.”

Murray has a history of filing lawsuits against journalists – and even TV shows like HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” – who write and say things that he doesn’t like, but so far every single one has been an expensive failure.

Pushing Trump, Perry, and Pruitt to try and save the failing coal business is also a mission that seems destined for a trip to oblivion, but it has achieved one thing.

While every other major country from France to China are going full speed ahead to develop alternative energy sources that will provide the high skilled, high paying jobs of the future, the U.S. is either on hold or moving backwards in technology, innovation and the kind of vision that will determine the real leaders in the future.

Bob Murray may not like that but that is the real truth.

Benjamin Locke

Benjamin Locke is a retired college professor with an undergraduate degree in Industrial Labor and Relations from Cornell University and an MBA from the European School of Management.

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