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Trump’s Lumps of Coal

The president claims he saved the coal industry, but critics say a growing number of miners are dying because he’s slashed regulations



LAST SUMMER, RODNEY OSBORNE was nearing the end of a double shift at the Gateway Eagle Mine in West Virginia when a rotating drill crushed him to death. A subsequent federal investigation showed that Osborne, 32, had not received adequate safety training on the device. “It feels like my heart is busted,” his mother, Deloris Duffy, wrote on Facebook after her son’s death. “I’ve never hurt this bad in all my life.”

Since he took office, President Donald Trump has been quick to champion the coal industry and the 771 more coal-mining jobs there were in 2017, compared with 2016. “I’m the one that saved coal,” the president told The New York Times, omitting the 17 coal-fired power plants that have announced they’ll still be closing. “I’m the one that created jobs.”

But an increase in coal worker fatalities has accompanied the administration’s push to support the fossil fuel. The 2017 death toll—15—was the highest since 2014, when there were roughly 60,000 more coal miners working in America. Critics partly blame the president, whose support for mine owners has led to relaxed safety measures and scores of inexperienced new miners, they say. And these problems could soon get worse, as House Republicans and Trump have proposed cutting more industrywide regulations.

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