Coal miners will fare better if President Barack Obama is re-elected, as opponent Mitt Romney doesn’t understand the “nature of hard work,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said.
“President Obama stands head and shoulders above Mitt Romney when it comes to protecting the lives of coal miners and giving them a future,” Trumka, a former coal miner who heads the largest U.S. labor federation, said today on a conference call.
Trumka’s narrative is at odds with Romney’s warnings to coal miners that a second Obama administration will lead to tougher regulations and fewer mining jobs.
Obama “has gone so far as to impose regulations designed to bankrupt the coal industry,” according to Romney’s website.
The number of coal jobs in the U.S. is half what it was 30 years ago. Some of those that remain are clustered in rural enclaves in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia that both candidates see as critical to winning the White House, which has made coal a prominent election issue.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under Obama plans to phase in limits on industrial emissions of carbon dioxide through 2016. The rules stem from a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the EPA had authority to regulate greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane under the Clean Air Act.
The case was initiated by Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully to succeed Romney as governor in 2006. Eleven other states were among petitioners in the case.
“Those EPA regulations were ordered by the Supreme Court as a result of a lawsuit by Mitt Romney while he was governor,” Trumka said. “If there is a war on coal, it starts and ends with Mitt Romney.”
Ryan Williams, a Romney spokesman, said the Massachusetts attorney general is elected by voters, “is independent of governor’s office and makes his or her own decisions regarding the Commonwealth’s legal strategy.”
In 2008, about 48 percent of U.S. electricity came from coal. In August, that total had slipped to 38 percent, according to the Energy Information Administration. Coal is losing its place as the mainstay in power generation to increased production of natural gas as a result of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which has driven down prices for natural gas to their lowest levels in 10 years.
Trumka also praised Obama for better enforcement of coal-mine regulations through the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration.