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Rural Blog: National, state statistics show EPA head Scott Pruitt’s claims about coal jobs are false

Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt’s recent claim that coal jobs are up 20 percent this year is false, according to national and state figures. Pruitt made the claim during an interview with Louisville’s WDRB-TV last week.

Scott Pruitt

U.S. Department of Labor numbers show that there were around 50,000 coal mining employees in January 2017 and 51,200 employees as of November 2017 — a 2.4 percent uptick, mostly due to increased coal exports. But that increase is likely temporary and due to a variety of global factors such as Asian countries’ need to purchase coal after some mines were damaged or lost in a cyclone, Clifford Krauss reports for The New York Times. And even with that small increase, mining jobs are still drastically down from the 89,400 U.S. coal jobs in December 2011.

It’s possible that Pruitt, in talking to a station in his native state, was talking or thinking about Kentucky, but coal jobs in that state have shown no sustained rebound this year, Bill Estep reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Pruitt made a misleading claim in June that the coal industry had added 50,000 jobs since the fourth quarter of 2016, as The Rural Blog reported. But he found those figures by conflating coal mining jobs with mining support jobs in the booming oil and gas industries. The oil and gas industries, notably, are speeding coal’s decline.

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The Rural Blog is a digest of events, trends, issues, ideas and journalism from and about rural America, from the IRJCI, based at the University of Kentucky. The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues is an extension program for rural journalists and news outlets. It takes no positions on issues and advocates only for strong news coverage, responsible commentary and things that make them possible, such as open-government laws. For more information see www.RuralJournalism.org.

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