Hillary Clinton’s $30 billion plan for coal country

Under the plan, former coal workers would have a helping hand in finding new employment and maintaining healthcare coverage. 

Jim Cole/AP
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during a campaign stop at the VFW Post Tuesday Nov. 10, 2015 in Derry, N.H. Clinton outlined her plan to improve the Department of Veterans Affairs, pushing back against calls by Republicans to privatize the sprawling health care system for those who have served in the military. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Hillary Clinton wants to draw down coal mining without leaving workers adrift.

The Democratic presidential candidate has proposed a sweeping $30 billion plan to help those in coal-producing regions find new employment while continuing to have healthcare coverage. The proposal also includes expanding broadband Internet access and creating grants for small businesses.

The new objectives are all part of her plan to preserve and expand on President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which sets rules to lower carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels in the next 15 years. However, the plan is also a frequent target of attacks by Republicans who cast it as a “war on coal” that will push producing regions off an economic cliff.

It’s a calculated move to give Democrats a chance in coal country while maintaining her environmental platform. During Mrs. Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid, she staunchly defended “clean coal” and swept the Pennsylvania, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Ohio Democratic primaries. Pennsylvania and Ohio are two battleground states crucial to the outcome of the general election.

Bloomberg spoke with a West Virginia senator who said Clinton’s plan will not appease coal workers nor improve the economy:

A spokeswoman for Senator Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican who is a prime example of what Democratic carbon policies have cost the party—she won the seat of retiring West Virginia Democrat Jay Rockefeller in 2014—said the kinds of programs Clinton is proposing won't fill the hole left in her state's economy by the decline of the coal industry.  "The Obama Administration has instituted sweeping regulations that have crushed West Virginia’s foundation without considering the real world impacts those policies have on families, communities and the economy," the spokeswoman, Amy Graham, said. "Hillary Clinton’s new proposal signals her intention to finish what President Obama started when he promised to bankrupt coal.

Some companies have faced insolvency because of the declining demand for coal. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the industry directly provided about 74,000 jobs in 2014 versus nearly 175,000 in 1985. The solar industry has now surpassed coal as a jobs creator.   

Clinton, a descendant of Appalachian coal miners, has said switching to clean energy "should not mean we move away from coal miners, their families, and their communities," which have "kept the lights on" and stimulated the economy.  

In her repeated calls for a measured approach to these issues, Clinton has drawn ire from both sides of the political spectrum. She has proposed that the extraction of fossil fuels on public lands should end gradually, while also saying she would support lifting the ban on crude oil exports if the deal came with clean energy tradeoffs, a position environmentalists have criticized. And the national Republican Party labeled Clinton "Public Enemy No. 1 for coal miners" after her endorsement of Obama's environmental agenda.

This report contains material from Reuters.

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