By Steve Grillo and Jennifer Nesbitt, AP WYOMING, Wyo.
(AP) Wyoming coal miners say they will close all the coal-fired plants they work on by 2020 if President Donald Trump doesn’t approve their $1.6 billion in environmental spending.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved the first phase of a $1 billion environmental spending bill that would fund the coal industry for at least four years, with the remaining $300 million earmarked for other projects, according to the House Appropriations Committee.
The bill passed the committee last week with little opposition from Democrats, which is what the coal miners had sought.
They’re not seeking to stop the coal plants from closing, they’re asking for money for other programs and to be able to spend more on jobs, health care and environmental protection.
“The EPA is going to do what they have to do to protect the public health and safety,” Wyoming Energy Cooperative said in a statement.
“We are committed to moving forward with our plans to protect our citizens and the environment, and will not be taking any additional actions in support of this request.”
The state has about 2.3 million coal miners and more than 4,000 coal-powered plants, according, with many working in the state’s central and western regions.
The House vote was a win for environmentalists who say the EPA’s $1-billion in money for environmental programs is needed to keep jobs in the coal mining industry.
“This is a big win for the Sierra Club and coal miners,” said Laura Wojcik, president of the Wyoming Coal Association.
“They are fighting for our safety, and the president should follow through on his promises.”
The EPA has said it will review the request and make a decision on whether to approve the request by the end of the year.
Wyoming Governor Matt Mead said he was proud of the state lawmakers who helped the coal sector in its time of economic hardship.
“The coal industry, like any other industry, will have to find a way to operate, but it is time to look at other things,” Mead said.