No matter what the signs say, Donald Trump does not “dig coal.” Trump may do favors for coal mine owners, but the actual digging is left to the nation’s small number of coal miners. Since Trump took office, the number of mining jobs has gone up. But it hasn’t doubled, no matter what lies Scott Pruitt tries to spread. Instead, jobs in mining increased from about 50,300 when Trump took office, to 51,900 in October—an increase of about 3 percent.
But something else has gone up much faster.
Deaths in U.S. coal mines this year have surged ahead of last year’s, and federal safety officials say workers who are new to a mine have been especially vulnerable to fatal accidents.
Mining deaths at this time last year numbered 7. This year, there have already been 14 deaths. That’s a 100 percent increase in deaths for a 3 percent jump in jobs. This may not be the deal coal miners were hoping Trump would deliver.
2016 was a record low year, but it represented the success of a number of processes and procedures put in place by the Mine Safety and Health Administration under President Obama that generated a downward trend. in 2015, the number of mining jobs was 69,000—a full 30 percent higher than today—but the number of deaths across the whole year was 12.
Under Trump, the MSHA’s ability to issue citations has been reduced. And after leaving the leadership of the department open for most of the year, Trump has finally filled the slot—with a coal exec from a mine with a horrible safety record.
Zatezalo will bring an unconventional perspective to the Mine Health and Safety Administration (MSHA) after serving as a top executive at a company hit with two “pattern of violations” citations by the agency.
Mines that had a “pattern of violations” were those on the brink of being closed for repeat, serious safety violations. All of which suggests that Trump needs a new motto:
Trump Digs Graves.