By Justin Haskins
May 8, 2017 - During his campaign for president, Donald Trump rightfully laid the blame for the demise of the U.S. coal industry at feet of President Barack Obama. Under Obama’s policies, which were designed specifically to target traditional energy sources such as coal, coal production plummeted. In 2014, the industry produced 1 billion tons of coal. By 2016, that figure fell to 739 million, according to a report by the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration.
Falling production meant tens of thousands of jobs lost over the same period, a point Trump repeatedly reminded voters in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and in other states with large coal-related industries prior to Election Day.
Just a few months into his first year in office, Trump appears to have made good on his promises to help the flailing industry recover. Spurred by regulatory changes issued by the Trump administration and promises to continue offering a more favorable business climate for coal producers, coal production is for the first time in many years trending upward in many important coal-rich regions.
In southern West Virginia, coal output through mid-April rose by 9 percent compared to one year ago, according to a report by Bloomberg, and the value of publicly traded U.S. coal companies has doubled over the past year, now estimated to be $15 billion.
Bloomberg also reports signing bonuses for miners have returned in some areas.
“Miners are snagging $1,000 signing bonuses, fully paid health insurance and raises again,” Bloomberg’s report noted.
Fortune estimates “at least some of the 33,000 employees and contractors laid off between 2014 and 2016” in the coal industry are “likely to be rehired.”
Although the coal industry seems to be stabilizing for now, some coal regions have yet to see any improvements. For instance, a recent report by the Lexington Herald Leader (Ky.) stated, “Employment at Kentucky coal mines dropped 3.3 percent statewide from Jan. 1 through March 31.”
It remains to be seen whether coal’s good fortunes will continue, but for now, it’s clear Trump’s policies, coupled with favorable economic conditions, have helped to keep the industry from collapsing.