Energy & Environment

Clinton releases $30B plan for coal country

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Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton outlined a $30 billion plan Thursday to help parts of the country recover from the decline of the coal industry.

In a six-page plan, the Democratic candidate proposes expanding existing programs, such as federal investment in carbon capture technology for coal plants. She also calls for protecting coal workers’ pension and health benefits from bankruptcy, and encouraging economic development in coal country through grants and expanded broadband access.

{mosads}As Clinton vies with rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to be tough on climate change, the coal country plan could be a way for her to court workers who see strong environmental policies as a threat to their livelihoods.

Clinton’s campaign said the plan fits squarely with her climate priorities, which center around expanding the use of renewable energy such as wind and solar power.

“Hillary Clinton is committed to meeting the climate change challenge as President and making the United States a clean energy superpower,” the plan’s fact sheet says.

“At the same time, she will not allow coal communities to be left behind — or left out of our economic future.”

The GOP quickly dismissed the plan, saying Clinton’s environmental policies mean she is no friend to coal workers and their communities.
“Hillary Clinton is Public Enemy No. 1 for coal miners and their communities because she wholeheartedly supports President Obama’s EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] agenda that is crippling their way of life,” Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Short said in a statement.
“If Hillary Clinton were truly on the side of coal country, she would stand up to extreme anti-energy environmentalists that run the Democrat Party instead of embracing their agenda that is killing jobs and driving up costs.”

Clinton’s plan does not include details about what the specific proposals would cost. It largely borrows from previous proposals, including a bipartisan Senate bill to create a federal backstop for pension and health benefits when coal companies go through bankruptcy, which is happening frequently.

While it’s unlikely to win strong support from the coal industry and others who feel alienated by Democrats, Clinton’s proposals represent a comprehensive approach to assisting miners and others harmed by the move away from the fuel.

Among its ideas is a major reform of black lung disease benefits, funding for schools that lose out on money when the industry declines and expansion of carbon capture research that could potentially provide a future for coal in a low-carbon economy.

The Sierra Club, one of the strongest voices behind regulations and other actions that have shut down scores of coal-fired power plants, applauded Clinton’s proposal.

“It’s essential that all regions and communities, especially those who have helped power this country, experience the benefits of our transition to clean energy and aren’t unfairly burdened,” Michael Brune, the group’s executive director, said in a statement.

“That will happen if we drive sustainable investment and job creation in regions like Appalachia, where the coal industry has abused and abandoned the land, air, water and people — and this plan helps do just that.”

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