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Coal’s Last Kick – As clean energy rises, West Virginia looks past Trump’s embrace of coal to what comes next

“There’s almost zero reason to be completely optimistic,” says Ted Boettner, executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy. “It’s a disservice to coal-mining communities to tell them they will have a mighty comeback.”

That may not be clear in the White House, but it is in the places that do the mining. In West Virginia, it’s striking that even those who applaud Trump’s repeal of Obama’s environmental agenda are preparing for life after coal—or at least beginning to negotiate the terms. Governor Justice, the towering owner of the Greenbrier resort, with an outsize personality and a fortune built on coal, skipped the February industry conference without explanation. Instead, he sent his chief of staff to deliver a dose of reality: a budget proposal for a slew of new fees, including a potential tax increase on coal companies. “I walked in and was able to look under the sheets and look at where we were,” Justice told TIME of his rationale after seeing the state’s $400 million budget deficit. “It was beyond dismal. We’re in a real mess here.”

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