By Talkline host Hoppy Kercheval

Candidate Donald Trump pledged to put coal miners back to work. It was a bold promise since there are multiple factors that have contributed to the rapid decline of the coal industry. However, Trump wasted little time once he took office outlining his plans for energy.

As Trump was taking the oath of office Friday, the White House webpage switched to reflect the agenda for the new president, including his “America First Energy Plan,” which is designed to “maximize the use of American resources.”  Coal and natural gas production are priorities.

“We must take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own,” according to the policy statement.  “The Trump administration is also committed to clean coal technology, and to reviving America’s coal industry, which has been hurting for too long.”

Specifically, Trump will pull the plug on the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the U.S. Rule. Both were unilateral creations of the Obama administration as instruments to drive the coal industry out of business and appease anti-carbon environmentalists.

One of the first public officials in West Virginia to congratulate and praise the new president was Governor Jim Justice. The two men represent different parties, but Justice couldn’t care less about the “R” or “D” designation.

“Political party doesn’t matter to me,” Justice said in a release.  “Our new president cares deeply about the people of West Virginia. We now have a pathway to the White House and President Trump and I will work to bring opportunity and hope to West Virginia families.”

Trump says he will “refocus the EPA on its essential mission of protecting our air and water.”  That would be helpful because for the last eight years the agency has been preoccupied with climate change and dictating energy policy.

Energy production is the cornerstone of our state’s economy. The Obama years were difficult here because his administration used subsidies and EPA rules to try to realign the nation’s energy portfolio toward a heavier reliance on politically favored green alternatives.

Mines shut down, workers were laid off and tax revenue that came directly or indirectly from coal plummeted.  Former Governor Earl Ray Tomblin had to cut $400 million from the state budget over the last few years and Governor Justice is facing an estimated $400 million shortfall in the budget for next fiscal year.

If Trump follows through on his energy plan, West Virginia will get a reprieve. No, not all miners will get their jobs back and some mines will never reopen, but we still have plenty of coal and extraordinary reserves of natural gas that, when developed, create wealth and opportunity for the state.