Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthyGina McCarthyInterior announces expansion of hunting and fishing rights across 2.1 million acres Time to rethink Biden's anti-American energy policies Solar could provide 40 percent of US power generation by 2035, Biden administration says MORE’s comments from Paris about America’s shift away from coal shouldn’t have surprised anyone; she was simply restating facts that most people have known for some time. Just last week Arch Coal, whose stock price has plummeted from $350 a share five years ago to $.90 a share today, announced it had been notified by the New York Stock Exchange that it no longer meets the requirements for being listed.
It’s not McCarthy who’s telling the world there isn't a market for coal: it’s the market itself. Solar and wind are growing at breakneck speeds as their prices plummet, communities are calling for stronger clean air and water protections against pollution from fossil fuels, and hundreds of thousands of people are now working for clean energy companies. Additionally, all this is happening as nations of the world are coming together to address the climate crisis.
The coal industry simply can’t keep up with these changing times. It’s fought tooth and nail to avoid any accountability to the communities it pollutes, uses its influence to try to prop up aging coal plants that are no longer economically competitive, and spends millions of dollars to spread myths about “clean coal.” Meanwhile, clean energy is increasingly competitive, and even cheaper than fossil fuels, in electricity markets across the country, and communities are embracing the benefits it provides, from cleaner air and water to new jobs and innovation.
The outrage from the coal industry surrounding McCarthy’s remarks is just a distraction from market realities and the more pressing issue of helping coal communities take advantage of new economic opportunities. Congress should be supporting this transition by making sure that coal workers, and their families, continue to have financial stability, education and training opportunities, and the healthcare and pension benefits they’ve earned through their years of service.
It’s also vitally important that funds be made available to clean up the dirty legacy of toxic mining sites that still remain and continue to pose significant environmental and public health threats. There are serious proposals on the table for this transition, the most visible being President Obama’s Power+ Plan, but sadly, we haven’t seen any action from Congress. Frustration has grown so much that local elected governments in Appalachian coal country, including my state of West Virginia, have begun passing resolutions calling on their representatives to support Power+.
Coal communities were the backbone of our industrial revolution and vital to the rise of American prosperity. They deserve our gratitude and support, as well as leadership from decision makers, not Congressional foot dragging. It’s time to stop throwing mud at Director McCarthy, and time to start providing the resources that are essential for coal communities to adapt to our changing energy economy.
Hitt is director of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign.