Meadville Tribune

Opinion

August 1, 2012

Our pro-coal president

MEADVILLE — Coal miners wake up before the sun rises, travel miles into the darkness of mountains and with only a lamp on their helmets help power our country. They have a dangerous job, and they deserve a president who fights for them.

Our economy is stronger when workers receive good wages and benefits, which is why President Barack Obama has rolled back harmful labor regulations and policies designed to undermine collective bargaining.

Critics charge that recently enacted emission limits hurt the coal industry, but coal-mining jobs nationwide reached a 15-year-high last year, with the industry employing more than 90,000 workers. Coal-mining jobs in Pennsylvania are up more than 5 percent.

Mr. Obama is committed to protecting clean air and clean water for our families while also helping the coal industry. That is why he promotes clean-coal technologies to ensure that the industry remains competitive.

The president wants mine workers who clock in each day to stay safe on the job. His administration has launched an inspection program that targets mines with patterns of violations, and it’s paid off. Between 2010 and February 2012, the injury rate at inspected mines dropped by 18 percent. Last year saw the second-lowest number of mine worker fatalities since such statistics have been recorded.

Let’s also not forget that Mr. Obama’s health care law is a Godsend to longtime miners with black lung disease who no longer have to prove a direct cause to help their families get the benefits they deserve.

Of course, it’s not enough to produce good jobs today. We need to invest in the long-term security of the coal industry so that mine workers don’t have to wonder whether they will have a job to support their families next year, or the year after that.

With countries like China and Germany competing with us to lead the global clean-energy economy, Mr. Obama is making the most significant investments in clean coal of any president in history. His administration is partnering with businesses and universities on clean-coal projects in more than a dozen states and plans to rapidly deploy new technology.

The goal is to have five to 10 commercial-scale, low-carbon-power-plant demonstration projects online by 2016 and to have the technology become widespread within a decade. The manufacturing of clean-coal technologies is already supporting supply chain jobs in the United States. Facilities are making investments and hiring workers to manufacture components for clean-coal projects and to supply electricity to utilities.

Mr. Obama has been working to build a clean future for coal, but Mitt Romney abandoned the interests of coal miners and utility workers as governor of Massachusetts by attacking their “dirty power plants,” refusing to protect their jobs and even declaring that a Massachusetts coal plant “kills people.” He claimed to enforce strict regulations on coal-fired plants — in his words, “without compromise.”

Mr. Romney also would re-institute policies that are harmful to labor and that would weaken federal protection of the right to collectively bargain. By attacking coal jobs as governor, refusing to help the coal industry stay competitive and deriding labor unions, Mr. Romney dismisses what coal means to our economy and the economic security of mine workers across America.

What does Mr. Romney’s hostile record toward coal say to our miners? And how does it compare to Mr. Obama’s?

Here’s what the president said as the nation mourned the loss of 29 coal miners at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia two years ago: “Day after day, they would burrow into the coal, the fruits of their labor, what so often we take for granted: the electricity that lights up a convention center; that lights up our church, or our home, our school, our office; the energy that powers our country; the energy that powers the world.”

 

Gerard is president of the United Steelworkers of Pittsburgh.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • It’s hard to believe park will turn things around until secrecy ends

    Even if a deal is struck to save Conneaut Lake Park from a pending sale to pay off back taxes, it appears unlikely that the park will succeed unless its new managers pledge themselves to transparency and public accountability.

    April 22, 2014 1 Story

  • Public pensions for private lobbyists under fire

    Employees of the Pennsylvania School Board Association don’t work for any of the state’s 500 local school districts — not directly, anyway. They lobby lawmakers on behalf of those districts for things like funding.

    April 20, 2014

  • Many veterans suffer PTSD, which needs to be dealt with

    Initially, I intended this article to be about PTSD “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.” I wanted to write about the myths and misconceptions that those four words may hold. But as the days went by, the story just wouldn’t come together for me. Everything I typed seemed to miss something. There was no feeling.

    April 17, 2014

  • Journalists in combat zones ‘write with light’ while risking their lives

    I first heard the news on National Public Radio on my car radio. On April 4, the day before elections in Afghanistan, an Afghan military officer walked up to a car in a convoy and opened fire. Anja Niedringhaus, a staff photographer for The Associated Press, died instantly.

    April 16, 2014

  • There’s no war on men and boys — it’s quite the opposite

    Two weeks ago, Paul Dici submitted an column titled “It’s time to fight against the war on men and boys” (March 28). Mr. Dici would have us believe that men and boys are being “wussified” by a progressive agenda that may jeopardize our national security. Also, he makes the point that men and boys are not given the same advantages (programs) as women and girls.

    April 14, 2014

  • McCord outsourcing ‘scandal’ reminds me of Y2K fears

    With only seven weeks to go until the May primary election, the campaigns are expected to get a lot hotter and more negative.

    April 13, 2014

  • Can we trust luck when it comes to the nuclear industry?

    Let’s review the history to better understand a major concern of today.

    April 11, 2014

  • Aging — is it a disease to be cured?

    If you are already old, get ready for what comes next. If you are not old yet but on the way, it is not too early to start thinking about aging and dying, because both are part of being human.

    April 10, 2014

  • Local high school students help keep future of journalism bright

    Significant technological and economic changes have caused some to question the future of journalism, both as a viable business enterprise and as a potential career. But if the proceedings of the eighth annual Northwest Pennsylvania High School Journalism Day are any indication, journalism is alive and well, especially in Crawford County.

    April 10, 2014

  • Reps want to hang ‘English only’ sign at the Capitol

    Pennsylvania, it turns out, is one of 19 states that have failed to address the menace that is non-English. Or maybe it’s un-English? Or dis-English? There must be a word for it.

    April 8, 2014