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Leaving Room for Trump's Signature, Coal Baron Provided Drafts of Pro-Industry Executive Orders

"In case anyone was unsure whether this administration is in Big Oil's pocket..."

Coal executive Bob Murray sent Energy Secretary Rick Perry a 14-point "action plan" for pro-coal policies weeks into the Trump administration, as well as drafts of executive orders aimed at rolling back environmental regulations. (Photo: George Frey/Getty Images)

Reports of coal executive Bob Murray's suggestions for pro-fossil fuel executive orders in early 2017 raised further concerns on Thursday regarding his industry's power over the Trump administration.

Just days after President Donald Trump took office, Murray sent six draft executive orders, with room for the president's signature at the bottom of each, to the Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), urging the administration to roll back numerous environmental regulations.

The move was far from the first example of Murray's heavy-handed approach to ensuring that his industry receives favorable treatment from the government.

The documents, uncovered by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by E&E News, included requests that the administration repeal rules limiting coal pollution in the nation's waterways, air pollution from coal-fired plants, and the dangerous disposal of toxic coal ash in unlined dumps; and withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

The coal baron also sent a 14-point "action plan" to Energy Secretary Rick Perry, which included demands that the administration walk back the EPA's "endangerment finding" regarding harms caused by greenhouse gases, fund so-called "clean coal" technologies, and "overhaul the bloated and politicized" Labor Department office that focuses on mine safety.

Though none of the orders were actually signed, Murray's efforts were followed by Trump's rollback of several of the policies he was lobbying for, including his withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, the EPA's suspension of the Clean Water Rule, and his gutting of protections from toxic coal ash disposal. 

The Mine Safety and Health Administration, derided by Murray, has also reconsidered rules that protect miners from breathing coal dust, the primary cause of black lung disease—even as the deadly illness has been found to be on the rise. 

The biggest concern, tweeted Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), "isn't that Bob Murray wrote these 'Executive Orders', it's that he knew it was a strategy that would work with this administration. Putting industry interests over health and the environment is their hallmark."

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