Unclear if ‘war on coal’ killed Michigan jobs per Trump

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

During Monday’s speech at the Detroit Economic Club, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said the left’s “war on coal has cost Michigan over 50,000 jobs.”

Trump also said President Barack Obama’s clean energy rules and regulation adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have closed down coal-fired power plants across Michigan.

Energy officials in Michigan were not able Monday to confirm the number of coal industry jobs Michigan has lost. Utility officials said no one was laid off because of the closing of coal-fired power plants in the state. While some workers left because of retirement or other reasons, the number doesn’t come close to approaching 50,000.

In a transcription of his speech delivered at Cobo Center in downtown Detroit, Trump cited a 2011 report from the National Mining Association, which said a clean energy campaign could potentially destroy “116,872 permanent jobs and an additional 1.12 million construction jobs” throughout the country.

Judy Palnau, spokeswoman for the Michigan Public Service Commission, said 10 Michigan coal-powered energy facilities closed in April as a result of EPA regulations.

Spokesmen for DTE Energy and Consumers Energy confirmed the companies in April closed down old coal-fired plants in compliance with Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS). Not a single job was lost as a result of the closures, the representatives said.

DTE spokesman John Austerberry said DTE closed one coal-powered generating unit in Trenton, several of which make up a single power station.

Generating units typically employ 150 people. No jobs were lost as a result of the Trenton closure, Austerberry said. The facility was closed because it was outdated and would have cost too much to update because of the Obama administration regulations.

Consumers Energy spokesman Dan Bishop confirmed the Jackson-based utility had closed in April its seven oldest plants, which employed roughly 300 people.

Some of those employees retired and others left the company, Bishop said. No one was laid off as a result of the closures, he said, adding that everyone was offered a position at another Consumers facility.

Carbon emissions dropped 25 percent after the closures, Bishop said. Electricity rates also dipped for customers, he said.

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau