Cecil Roberts, president of United Mine Workers of America, said securing jobs for displaced miners – including 7,000 coal workers who lost their jobs last year – is crucial for any infrastructure bill passed by the US Congress.
The largest coal miners union in the United States said Monday it would agree to President Joe Biden’s plan to move away from coal and other fossil fuels in exchange for a “true energy transition” that includes thousands of renewable energy jobs and technology spending to make coal. cleaner.
Cecil Roberts, president of United Mine Workers of America, said securing jobs for displaced miners – including 7,000 coal workers who lost their jobs last year – is crucial for any infrastructure bill passed by the Congress.
“I think we have to provide a future for these people, a future for anyone who loses their job due to a transition in this country, whether it is coal, oil, gas or any other industry. ‘elsewhere,’ Roberts said in an online speech to the National Press Club.
“We talk about ‘just transition’ all the time,” added Roberts. “I wish people would stop using this. There has never been a just transition in the history of the United States. “
West Virginia Democrat Senator Joe Manchin appearing with Roberts at the Press Club event said measures to help coal miners in West Virginia and other rural states must be part of the package $ 2.3 trillion infrastructure taking shape in Congress.
“Basically what you need… is human infrastructure,” Manchin said. “You can’t leave anyone behind,” especially those in his hard-hit state, which has lost thousands of jobs in the mining and other resource extraction industries in recent years.
“I can tell you how West Virginia feels. We want to come back from Vietnam veterans, ”said Manchin. “We’ve done every dirty job you asked us to do. We never questioned ourselves. We did it and we performed well. And now all of a sudden we’re not good enough, we’re not clean enough, we’re not green enough, and we’re not smart enough. You want to know why they stopped voting for Democrats, that’s the reason.
A plan presented by the miners’ union calls for a significant extension of fiscal incentives for renewable energies and a preference in hiring for displaced minors; full funding of programs to plug old oil and gas wells and clean up abandoned mines; and continued incentives to develop so-called “carbon capture and storage” technology that traps carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels and stores it underground.
The union’s proposal and Manchin’s endorsement come as Congress considers Biden’s $ 2.3 trillion infrastructure package to rebuild the country’s roads, bridges and power grid, promote electric cars and boost clean energy like solar and wind power. A bipartisan group of lawmakers met with Biden on Monday to discuss the plan.
Republicans criticized the infrastructure package as a Democratic “wish list” with huge tax hikes, including a proposal to raise the corporate tax rate to 28 percent. Manchin, a centrist and key Democratic vote, said he preferred a 25% corporate rate.
In his remarks on Monday, Manchin made it clear that he wanted to preserve the coal industry, despite continued declines nationwide amid stiff competition from cheaper natural gas and other energy sources.
“I am for innovation, not for the elimination” of coal, Manchin said, adding that even if coal were reduced to zero in the United States, thousands of coal mines producing greenhouse gases would continue. to operate in China, India and other countries. “It’s not the North American climate. It’s the global climate, ”he said.
As part of the miners’ proposal, Manchin approved a Democratic bill that would reinvigorate unions, after decades of court defeats and legislative setbacks. The House passed the so-called “PRO Law” in March, but the measure faces an almost certain Republican blockade in a tightly divided Senate.
The bill would overturn “right to work” laws that have restricted the ability of unions to collect dues from workers who refuse to join, while benefiting from agreements negotiated on their behalf. It would also block tactics employers can use to delay organizing campaigns, contract negotiations and ratifying labor agreements.
Manchin said the bill would “level the playing field” for unionized workers, adding that he wanted to work with both sides to get it through Congress.
Biden’s infrastructure proposal includes $ 16 billion to plug hundreds of thousands of “orphan” oil and gas wells and clean up abandoned coal and hard rock mines that pose serious security and safety risks. environment. The White House said the plan would create thousands of jobs and eliminate pollution, including greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
Biden’s plan also includes fiscal incentives for renewable energy and billions of dollars in spending to deploy carbon capture and storage, two other elements of the union’s proposal.