Vice President Mike Pence and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke are scheduled to visit a coal mine on the Crow Reservation Friday. The Trump Administration has voiced its support for the coal industry, but spokesmen for the industry and an environmental organization aren’t certain what can be done to help that ailing energy source.
Still the executive director of the Montana Coal Council is pleased the Absaloka Mine was selected to showcase the industry.
Bud Clinch says the visit gives officials the opportunity to, “share with them the unique relationship that exists there between a private coal mining company and the Crow Tribe because the majority of the miners there are Crow members.”
Clinch said the visit is important as Trump Administration has already taken steps to reverse rules and regulations put into place by the Obama Administration. He said while that has provided some relief, the coal industry still faces competition from cheap natural gas that’s being used for electric generation.
“Are things perfect and rosy? Certainly not,” said Clinch. “But there are vastly improved over what they’ve been in the last few years.”
Derf Johnson is a staff attorney for the Montana Environmental Information Center. He said coal faces another pressure from cheap and abundant renewable energy.
“Don’t take it from me,” Johnson said. “Take it from Warren Buffett. Take it from utilities. Take it from energy experts. That is the long term prediction for the coal industry.”
Johnson doubts a visit to a Montana coal mine by Trump Administration officials can stop the long term structural decline and demand for coal.
“The way they’ve been portraying the potential rebound for the coal industry is really dishonest,” he said. “It doesn’t comport with reality. It doesn’t comport with the way the economics of energy are moving forward into the future and I think it’s giving people a sense of false hope.”
After the mine tour, Vice President Mike Pence and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke are scheduled to meet with industry and Crow tribal representatives for a business roundtable.