It happened in U.K. earlier this year and now it has happened here in the U.S. A movement that the mainstream media and the political elite had discounted will now change the direction of the country and possibly alter the global economy. Voters, many of whom felt their voices were not being heard, turned out to support Donald J. Trump, a billionaire businessman who decided to take on the establishment. As the ballots were tallied, it became clear that a huge turnout in rural areas was offsetting the votes cast in the urban centers. He not only pulled off a political upset that shocked the left, but the Republicans also walked away with a majority in both houses of Congress.
A Trump win should bode well for the mining industry. On the campaign trail, Trump promised to “Make the Miners Proud Again” and his election now opens the door for broad regulatory relief. Specifically, he promised to overturn the Stream Protection Rule and the Clean Power Plan, which may be tossed out by the Supreme Court when the current vacancy is filled. He has been quite vocal about his feelings toward Climate Change and unfair trade practices. Energy independence and jobs were two of the pillars for his campaign platform. If he is able to jump-start the economy and grow jobs, the natural resources sector should benefit.
More than simply rolling back regulations, the Trump administration needs to retool federal agencies. He should appoint engineers and reasonable scientists to lead these groups with a vision, one that protects people and the environment, but also encourages growth and affords the same advantages other countries have implemented. Streamlining the permitting process, for example, would allow miners to produce minerals when demand is high, not 10 years after the market peaked.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a great case. Today the agency follows a belief-based agenda rather than one based on science and facts. Environmental activism has its place, but it’s not at the helm of the EPA. The agency should relinquish primacy to the states and uphold the laws as they were written (See This Month in Coal, p. 18). If the states fail to do their jobs, then the EPA has the right to question that authority. The EPA should set priorities for preventing and cleaning up environmental catastrophes; it should not be creating them. It should not be dictating energy policy and or rejecting a permit before a mining company even applies for one.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) could also use some direction. Safety has improved under the current command-and-control administration. However, one could argue that there are fewer miners today and a company’s inability to either comply with today’s standards or pay for the legal representation has forced many of them out of business. Without the mines, there would be no need for federal inspectors. Similarly, a lengthy, burdensome approval process prevents miners from using some of the latest technology underground and it also discourages equipment makers from seeking the necessary approvals.
Not since the 1920s has the Republican Party amassed this much political power. The Trump administration and the 115th Congress will have the ability to shape policy and cut the red tape, and hopefully they will not squander this opportunity.
Steve Fiscor, E&MJ Editor-in-Chief, firstname.lastname@example.org