Democratic platform forsakes ‘all of the above,’ not miners

By Dylan Brown | 07/06/2016 07:00 AM EDT

The latest draft of the Democratic Party platform says the United States should run entirely on clean energy by 2050. But while the document pledges to abandon fossil fuels, it does not want to forsake industry workers, singling out struggling coal miners.

The latest draft of the Democratic Party platform says the United States should run entirely on clean energy by 2050. But while the document pledges to abandon fossil fuels, it does not want to forsake industry workers, singling out struggling coal miners.

Climate change topped the list of environmental priorities in the platform, alongside a bevy of liberal proposals, including a national $15 minimum wage and abolishing the death penalty (E&E Daily, June 27).

"While Donald Trump has called climate change a ‘hoax,’ 2016 is on track to break global temperature records once more," says the draft.


To avoid exacerbating risks from rising seas, drought and other phenomena, the platform demands that 50 percent of American energy come from clean-energy sources within a decade. The party would slash tax breaks for fossil fuel companies in favor of extending energy efficiency and clean-energy subsidies.

Despite shedding any adherence to the former "all of the above" energy strategy — once a favorite talking point of Obama administration leaders — the Democrats are vowing not to forget workers in their push to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

"The fight against climate change must not leave any community out or behind — including the coal communities who kept America’s lights on for generations," says the document.

Its promise to ensure that "no Americans are left out or left behind as we accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy" mirrors the rhetoric from the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"Americans deserve the jobs and security that come from becoming the clean energy superpower of the 21st century," says the draft platform.

Clinton put forward a $30 billion plan to invest in coal communities, which have been seeing layoffs and economic malaise from coal’s downturn for years, particularly in Appalachia.

The Obama administration has proposed a $1 billion acceleration in mine cleanup funding focused on economic stimulus. Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, introduced similar legislation (E&E Daily, March 10).

The financial crisis and major coal company bankruptcies have also raised concerns about miner pensions and health care benefits. Appalachian lawmakers — Democrats and Republicans — are lobbying hard for a vote on legislation to shore up an imperiled United Mine Workers of America retirement plan (E&E Daily, June 30).

The Democratic platform says the party "will fight to make sure these workers and their families get the benefits they have earned and the respect they deserve, and we will make new investments in energy producing communities to help create jobs and build a brighter and more resilient economic future."

Mixed results

Democrats have for years touted their efforts to protect workers amid Republican accusations that President Obama and his allies are fighting a war on coal — against both companies and their employees. Results have been mixed.

Coal has been a roadblock for Clinton’s campaign, with the mining industry and its GOP allies keyed on comments she made at a televised town hall debate. She introduced her plan by saying her administration would "put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business."

Beyond blaming Democrats for coal’s woes, many coal field residents condemn the party — which had long been dominant in Appalachia — for failing to produce a viable employment alternative (E&E Daily, June 10).

"Democrats reject the notion that we have to choose between protecting our planet and creating good-paying jobs," says the new platform. "We can and we will do both."

Coal mining executives and advocates, including Murray Energy Corp. CEO Robert Murray, a fervent Obama critic, are rallying behind presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, who has promised a coal country revival (Greenwire, May 23).

Clinton rival Bernie Sanders — who has yet to concede defeat in his quest for the Democratic nomination — soundly defeated her in Wyoming and West Virginia, the nation’s top two coal-producing states, and nearly won in the third top extractor, Kentucky.

The Vermont senator has been more fervent than Clinton on fossil fuel issues and against coal. But his unlikely rise and anti-establishment message attracted many coal country voters.

Even if he doesn’t win the nomination, Sanders’ primary victories have raised his profile within the Democratic Party and allowed him to influence the platform committee.

The document demands reform for fossil fuel leasing on public lands in addition to a broader call for protecting public lands, wildlife and cultural resources.

"We can phase down extraction of fossil fuels from our public lands, starting with the most polluting sources, while making our public lands and waters engines of the clean energy economy and creating jobs," the platform states.

The draft also promises to defend "smart pollution and efficiency standards," including the Clean Power Plan, new methane restrictions and fuel economy standards.

Democrats are behind Obama’s decision to reject the Keystone XL oil pipeline and are calling for the "the most ambitious investment in American infrastructure since President Eisenhower created the interstate highway system," including modernizing the energy grid and installing a half-billion solar panels within four years.

With several states looking into alleged corporate fraud, the platform "respectfully" requests that the Justice Department investigate fossil fuel companies for misleading shareholders and the public about climate change (ClimateWire, July 1).

"All corporations owe it to their shareholders to fully analyze and disclose the risks they face, including climate risk," it says. "Those who fail to do so should be held accountable."