Energy & Environment

This time, ‘elections have consequences’ for the Sierra Club

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In the next week or so, the Sierra Club will twice be reminded of former President Obama’s boast that “elections have consequences.”

The Senate will likely confirm Scott Pruitt’s nomination for EPA administrator following the Environment and Public Works Committee’s recent vote.

{mosads}Further, President Trump is expected to sign the resolution of disapproval that Congress passed last week to void the so-called Stream Protection Rule.


As the new administration gears up, canceling the stream rule will likely be the first bill signed during the Trump presidency.

The climate lobby that owned EPA for the last eight years is watching all of this transpire with dread, fretting that Caligula is about to capture the convent.

However, the many thousands of workers and businesses punished by EPA’s regulatory overreach are ready to welcome Pruitt as their savior.

It’s a stunning turnaround. But how did it happen?

Ironically, the Sierra Club may have provided one answer recently when it announced a new plan to cut 28 gigawatts of coal-fired power. Such a massive dismantling of coal power could destroy 65,000 U.S. jobs. 

Of course, that’s not how the Sierra Club announced its new plan, but that was what some of us heard.

To the red-carpet supporters, billionaire philanthropists, and trust-fund intellectuals who cheer the club’s ambition to shut down another 28 gigawatts of coal-based generation, the jobs impact of this new goal will be lost in translation.

Cost is no consideration for this crowd. They don’t worry about higher electricity costs, nor are their job prospects hurt by an assault on coal.

But the jobs impact of closing so much plant capacity is not lost on voters, especially not the hundreds of thousands of men and women whose jobs are tied to the U.S. coal supply chain.

Here’s what these workers hear. The Sierra Club’s 28 GW target equates to roughly 90 million tons of lost coal production — the annual volume of coal required to supply these power plants.

This lost volume translates into job losses of 10,000 direct coal mine workers, according to data from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, and 9,000 direct coal plant workers, based on DOE’s “Energy and Employment Report”.

Add to this toll the standard 3.6 multiplier for indirect job losses that is derived from U.S. labor bureau data and the Sierra Club’s “goal” will kill another 46,000 jobs in the supply chain, including those in power plants, railroads, barge transport, ports, and equipment vendors. 

Notably, Bureau of Labor Statistics data show fossil energy jobs of this kind paid an average of $111,300 in 2015 — the type of wages that typically help to support a strong middle class. 

Voters across the country often ask one another, “Where have all the good jobs gone? Why can’t we create the kinds of jobs that once supported a family?”

It isn’t necessarily China, automation, or a lack of qualified applicants that is slowly eroding living standards for the once great American middle class.

In part, it’s the rising influence of well-funded advocacy groups pursuing trivial environmental improvements at the expense of economic growth and job creation. 

For example, the stream rule that Congress overturned last week would not have delivered any meaningful environmental improvement.

The regulation simply duplicates existing oversight responsibilities already conducted by state and federal regulators. Such redundancy would have imposed heavy costs on coal producers.

There’s also the Clean Power Plan — President Obama’s contribution to the Paris Climate accords — that is now hamstrung in litigation.

It’s estimated that the plan would destroy tens of thousands of additional jobs in the fossil energy sector just to deliver a global warming reduction so trivial that the EPA didn’t even estimate it.

The Obama administration’s single-minded devotion to the environmental left has meant a blunt clubbing of blue collar jobs.

It proved costly for the president’s legacy in November. What industrial America saw was a focus on reduced carbon emissions and lower coal production that hurt tens of thousands of workers.

Small wonder that on Election Day they turned on their tormentors and the candidates who had turned against them first. 

To woo voters back, the governing class must end its romance with the green lobby.

Their evangelical zeal for punitive energy regulations — from stopping pipelines to shuttering power plants — and indifference to the welfare of working Americans are incompatible with the economic growth and high-wage jobs that voters want. 

The Sierra Club can’t read election results, but Congress’ actions this week demonstrate that Washington can.


Luke Popovich is Vice President for External Relations at the National Mining Association (NMA).


The views of contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill. 

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