Trump names former coal executive as Commerce Secretary

The Sierra Club on Nov. 30 slammed President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, a Wall Street financier that was for a time in the coal business.

Ross bought coal mines last decade from bankrupt Horizon Natural Resources, which had been founded by coal operator Larry Addington, and also controlled Northern Appalachian coal produder Anker Coal Group. Ross then combined all those mines in 2005 under International Coal Group, which was sold in 2011 to Arch Coal. Among those mines was the Sago underground operation in northern West Virginia, where a dozen miners died due to a 2006 explosion.

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said Nov. 30: “Wilbur Ross’ long record of disregard for the health, safety, and well-being of workers at his companies should instantly disqualify him from being in the building that houses the Commerce Department, let alone from leading it. Ross laid off hundreds of workers, shipped American jobs overseas, and owned a coal mine so dangerous that it killed a dozen people. Is that really the kind of example Donald Trump wants out of his Secretary of Commerce?”

Notable is that Ross did not come out of the coal business and was only in it for a few years. In contrast, West Virginia governor-elect Jim Justice made his fortune in the coal business and remains in that business to this day. Both Trump and Justice have promised to fight environmental regulations and try to save as much of the coal industry as they can.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.