Hillary Clinton’s campaign announced on Thursday a $30 billion plan to revitalize coal communities that have suffered as the nation’s electric grid shifts to cleaner energy sources.
The plan would include federal investments in infrastructure, local development, job training and extending tax credits to vulnerable coal communities, according to a white paper provided by an aide.
“Clinton will ensure that we honor our commitments to the coal miners, transportation and power plant workers, their families and their communities, who have given so much to our country,” the plan said.
Domestic coal consumption has fallen dramatically and coal accounts for just one-third of U.S. power generation, dramatic changes that are due in part to the Obama administration’s restrictions on coal-fired power plants. The coal industry lost nearly 50,000 jobs between 2008 and 2012, according to a recent study, even as other sectors like natural gas, wind and solar gained nearly 175,000 jobs.
While Clinton has pledged to continue forward at full pace to address climate change as president by emphasizing clean energy, this is her first policy announcement detailing how she would aid displaced coal miners and workers.
Clinton’s plan would invest in building roads, bridges, water systems and airports in Appalachia and other coal areas, expand broadband access, increase public investment in research and development and labs. She would expand a “major public works project,” according to her white paper, aimed at producing clean energy through hydro power on federal lands
As president, Clinton would also find ways to replace local revenue for public schools lost when coal production facilities disappear, to ensure that that workers at bankrupt coal companies keep their benefits. She would also aware grants for efficient housing upgrades and community health centers in coal communities.
Clinton overwhelmingly won coal-producing areas during the 2008 primary against then-Sen. Barack Obama, in large part due to her appeal to working class white voters in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and elsewhere.
Obama came under fire in the 2008 and 2012 elections for declaring what his critics called a “war on coal,” and for promising to impose regulatory burdens on coal-fired power plants.
Clinton has taken a more circumspect approach and promised during this election cycle to protect coal workers. She claimed victory early last month after criticizing an Indiana coal company’s plans to use $18 million intended for workers’ health care on bankruptcy proceedings.
“We must honor our commitments to the coal miners who put their own health and safety at risk to help power the American economy,” she said last month when the company, Patriot Coal Corporation, backed off its plans.