Mining Communities Provide the Backdrop for Presidental Debates, and a Window into What's at Stake for many Americans in the Election
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The American mining industry will be the backdrop in three of the four states where the presidential candidates debate. In Virginia, Missouri and Nevada, the candidates will be surrounded by communities that rely heavily on mining for reliable, low-cost energy; high-paying jobs; and important state revenues. Those communities are on the front lines of many others that will be significantly impacted by the policies of the next administration.
Seventy percent of voters have said candidates’ positions on energy policy will be important to their vote this fall, and both presidential candidates have spoken boldly about their very different perspectives on the coal industry and its place in America’s energy future. At the same time, nearly seven in 10 voters support an “all of the above” energy strategy that includes coal ( Morning Consult poll conducted for NMA, August 3-5, 2016).
Over the last eight years, policies such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics rule have worked to take coal-powered electricity off the energy grid. Pending regulations—e.g. the Clean Power Plan; a multi-year moratorium on federal coal leases; and the Stream Protection Rule—will continue this trend. As that coal-powered energy disappears, it takes with it a key source of affordable, reliable energy for Americans; important state and federal tax revenues; and related high-paying jobs.
The next administration has an opportunity to take a more balanced approach to energy policy. This will be especially helpful to debate states like Virginia and Missouri, where coal is important to their economies and communities, as it is elsewhere across America.
Oct. 4, 2016, Vice Presidential Debate, Farmville, Va.
• Key to Virginia’s economy:
- Virginia is the number one coal exporting customs district in the U.S., exporting 26.2 million tons of coal in 2015.
- Virginia’s average annual coal mining wage of $73,900 is 31 percent above the state average wage of $56,600.
- Virginia mining supports 64,390 jobs in total (including direct, indirect and induced).
- Virginia mining companies paid $1.7 billion in federal, state and local taxes (including direct, indirect and induced).
• Providing reliable, affordable electricity in Virginia:
- Because of Virginia’s use of coal for power generation, its retail electricity price is 9.31 cents/kWh – 11 percent below the national average.
Oct. 9, 2016, Second Presidential Debate, St. Louis, Mo.
• Key to Missouri’s economy:
- Missouri’s average annual mining wage of $68,000 is nearly 50 percent above the state average of $46,000.
- Mining in Missouri supports 33,380 jobs in total (including direct, indirect and induced), supporting total labor income of $2 billion.
- Missouri mining companies paid $636 million in federal, state and local taxes (including direct, indirect and induced).
• Providing reliable, affordable electricity in Missouri:
- Coal generated 78 percent of Missouri’s electricity in 2015. Because of Missouri’s significant use of coal for power generation, its retail electricity price is 9.3 cents/kWh −11 percent below the national average.
Minerals availability and land access
While the U.S. is rich in mineral resources, permit delays, regulatory uncertainty and land withdrawals hamper investment in our domestic resources, increasing our reliance on foreign imports. Pending EPA regulations threaten minerals miners with redundant financial assurance regulations that duplicate existing state and federal rules.
The next administration has an opportunity to advance policies that will support the responsible development of domestic minerals resources, with Nevada as a leading example of communities that would benefit greatly from such action.
Oct. 19, 2016, Third Presidential Debate, Las Vegas, Nev.
• Key to Nevada’s economy:
- Nevada’s ranks first in U.S. nonfuel mineral production valued at $6.9 billion in 2015.
- Nevada’s average annual mining wage of $93,000 is more than twice the state average wage of $44,500.
- Mining in Nevada supports 61,900 jobs total (including direct, indirect and induced).
- Nevada mining companies paid $1.9 billion in federal, state and local taxes (including direct, indirect and induced).
Key Questions for Our Next President
Given the importance of affordable and reliable electricity made possible through coal mining, and our economy’s reliance on minerals and metals to build infrastructure and sustain high-wage employment, the debates should probe into whether candidates’ positions address the realities faced by working Americans.
Key questions the candidates should be asked:
• In the past, both Democratic and Republican administrations have supported an “all of the above” energy policy, which advocates for the balanced use of all energy resources available, including coal, natural gas, nuclear and renewables. Seventy percent of voters have said the candidates’ position on energy policy will be important to their vote this fall, with another seven in 10 voters supporting an “all of the above” energy strategy (Morning Consult poll conducted for NMA, August 3-5, 2016). What is your position on the “keep it in the ground” movement being championed by environmental groups demanding that the world’s fossil fuels be kept in the ground?
• Is this movement realistic given our current energy grid (5 percent of electricity generated by wind and solar)? What would such a transformation of our energy grid cost on the front end from an infrastructure perspective and on the back end in terms of electricity costs to consumers, and where will these funds come from?
• Nevada is a mineral rich state, yet current policies tie up the mining industry in red tape, with multiple federal agencies typically taking seven to 10 years to approve a new mining project that could provide well-paying jobs for hundreds. Where should the balance be between environmental oversight and efficient regulatory responsibility?