Several people said they would have liked to see more coverage of a measure that Trump signed Thursday that rolled back a last-minute Obama regulation that would have restricted coal mines from dumping debris in nearby streams. At the signing, Trump was joined by coal miners in hard hats."If he hadn't gotten into office, 70,000 miners would have been put out of work," Patricia Nana, a 42-year-old naturalized citizen from Cameroon. "I saw the ceremony where he signed that bill, giving them their jobs back, and he had miners with their hard hats and everything -- you could see how happy they were."
Donald Trump is not yet accustomed to bill-signing ceremonies. The president, just a month into his term, walked into a room in the White House last week to sign a measure backed by the coal industry, said a few words, smiled for the cameras, and turned to leave the room.An aide had to remind Trump to actually sign the bill into law.By most measures, we would've been better off had the president actually left without signing it. At issue is a policy called the Stream Protection Rule, created by President Obama, which sought to protect the nation's waterways "from debris generated by a practice called surface mining. The Interior Department had said the rule would protect 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests by keeping coal mining debris away from nearby waters."The Congressional Research Service recently published a report on the Stream Protection Rule, which congressional researchers said was an effective policy in protecting drinking water and combating climate change.As 2017 got underway, Republicans made the elimination of the Stream Protection Rule one of their first big priorities, and that in turn led to Trump's signing ceremony last week. As the Washington Post noted yesterday, the president's fans were impressed.
Now seems like a good time to do a little fact-checking.Estimates vary on the exact number of coal miners working in the United States, but by some measures, the number is below 70,000 -- so the idea that 70,000 miners would have been put out of work by protecting streams is very hard to take seriously.In reality, the evidence suggests killing the Stream Protection Rule will save about 124 jobs, not 70,000. Appalachian mine owners will save money by no longer having to worry about some compliance with some environmental safeguards, but to see this as some kind boon to the region, miners, or the struggling industry is a mistake.As for the politics, Trump followers may wish developments like these received more attention, but I'm inclined to think the opposite is true. If more Americans realized that the new Republican president, working with the Republican Congress, prioritized more water pollution in exchange for a policy that will have a negligible economic impact, it's easy to imagine Trump becoming even less popular than he is now.