Wise County, Virginia – A long-awaited revival is under way in this beleaguered Central Appalachia community where residents see coal as the once and future king.
Trucks are running again. Miners working seven days a week cannot keep up with current demand. Coal mines, long dormant after the industry’s collapse, are now buzzing again with antlike activity.
“We load coal every day for the power plant in Virginia City,” explained Rick, a long-time supervisor for a major local operation who did not want to give his last name. “There’s one shipment a week for Georgia Power, and one for Tennessee Eastman.”
The past month has seen a resurgence of the coal industry that once formed the backbone of the region’s economy, and locals credit President Trump’s aggressive, pro-energy agenda.
Crippled by a slew of factors, from changing times, an emphasis on renewable energy, and the Obama administration’s harsh penalties on coal-fired power plants, the area’s economy took a devastating hit over the past eight years. Many of the people living in these mountains had nearly given up hope that the area could ever recover.
The production of coal reached its peak in 2008. But then President Obama came into office and rolled out a series of regulations that he said were designed to protect America’s streams and waterways from the pollution the mining emitted.
Those regulations crippled the industry and left many in the region out of well-paying jobs.
For those whose livelihood depended on the industry, the most important thing that Trump has given them is hope.
“It was almost impossible due to the EPA regulations to open another deep mine,” said Rick.
Just a few decades ago, when unions were strong in Wise County, the area leaned Democrat. But once the economy bottomed out and many were left without jobs, this corner of Virginia found itself feeling left behind.
Nowadays, many homes in Wise County are adorned with Trump signs. This now-Republican stronghold is betting on a better future under the Trump administration.