How a Coal Baron’s Wish List Became President Trump’s To-Do

President Trump’s first year in office has been a boon for the coal industry, with the Trump administration rolling back regulations on coal-fired power plants and withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate change agreement.

Environmentalists have expressed alarm at the new direction, and have complained that Mr. Trump was following a blueprint from the coal industry. A confidential memo written by the head of the country’s largest coal mining company suggests they might not be wrong.

The memo was written by Robert E. Murray, a longtime Trump supporter who donated $300,000 to the president’s inauguration. In it, Mr. Murray, the head of Murray Energy, presented Mr. Trump with a wish list of environmental rollbacks just weeks after the inauguration.

Nearly a year later, the White House and federal agencies have completed or are on track to fulfill most of the 14 detailed requests, even with Monday’s decision by federal regulators to reject a proposal by Energy Secretary Rick Perry to subsidize struggling coal and nuclear plants.

The March 1 memo, which was obtained by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and shared with The New York Times, is addressed to Vice President Mike Pence. The sweeping wish list of regulatory overhauls includes ending regulations on greenhouse gas emissions and ozone and mine safety, as well as cutting the staff of the Environmental Protection Agency “at least in half” and overhauling the Labor Department’s office of mine safety.

Critics say Mr. Murray’s list and the apparent ease with which he was able to get it in front of cabinet officials and others illustrates the open-door access the Trump administration has offered energy and other industries as it moves to redirect and weaken federal regulations.

“The astonishing presumption of this list,” Mr. Whitehouse, a Democrat, said. “It’s an extraordinary arrogance of the fossil fuel industry based on the power they wield in Washington, D.C.” He said even though Mr. Murray had bragged about the action plan on a Frontline documentary last year, the Energy Department had declined his requests to immediately release the memo.

The Trump administration has had an unusually close relationship with Mr. Murray. He and 10 of his miners were invited to watch the president sign an executive order to rollback President Obama’s climate change regulations. He has met with Mr. Perry to discuss the needs of coal producers. His longtime attorney, Andrew Wheeler, is awaiting Senate confirmation to the No. 2 slot at the E.P.A., and David Zatezalo, the nation’s new top mine safety and health regulator and previously the president of a coal mining company, told his hometown paper that Mr. Murray had encouraged him to put his hat in the ring for the job.

(Excerpted from New York Times 1/9/18)