Retired coal miner Kenny Smith sits at his kitchen table in Centertown, Ky., Thursday, June 1, 2017, as he speaks during an interview. President Donald Trump announce Thursday during a news conference a decision to pull out of the landmark Paris climate accord. Smith worked in underground mines in western Kentucky until he retired in the 1990s after 22 years. He supports Trumps decision to pull out of the accord. Next to Smith on the table is the heart pump that keeps him alive. (AP Photo/Dylan Lovan)
PORTLAND, Maine — From coal country to the ports of Maine to the wind farms of the West Coast, Americans react to President Donald Trump’s announcement Thursday that he’s pulling the country out of the Paris climate accord.
Warming Water and Losing Lobsters
Tim Pettis, a Maine lobsterman, said he’s felt the effects of climate change in the waters he works in, and wishes President Trump could feel the same.
“I think most people believe that the climate is changing over the years,” Pettis said as he stood in front of stacks of yellow lobster traps. We can all see it, just because he doesn’t want to believe it, he shouldn’t be able to pull the whole country out on his own but he is the president so I guess you can.”
Pettis said he and his fellow workers in the far north have been beneficiaries from the changes so far, because there are fewer lobsters further south in places like New York and Connecticut.
“As the water keeps warming up, the numbers keep going down from the south up to us,” Pettis said. “The last three or four years we’ve been doing better lobstering and I think it does have to do with that.”
“Some of the fish are disappearing,” Pettis said. “We’re catching fish now in our traps that are southern fish; it just tells you that the water is warming up every year a little bit.”
Jersey Shore remembers Sandy, sees more storms
In Belmar on the Jersey Shore, Tom Rodgers, owner of TR’s Food Court, said he didn’t feel qualified to talk about science.
“You wanna know about Burgers, Fries I can tell you. You wanna know about climate, I’m really not an expert, so I leave certain things up to the experts. I just hope the president has done his due diligence and spoke to the right people.”
Rodgers’ restaurant was damaged by Superstorm Sandy, as were the homes of many in Belmar including Sandy Snyder.
“There was devastation here, the streets were full of sand and water, homes were damaged,” Sandy said. “They call it the storm of the century, but why was there a storm of the century when there are reports that climate change is affecting the planet, I think we are going to see more of it and unfortunately if we don’t take care of it now I think that is going to be the norm rather than the rarity.”
Snyder said he thinks “it is a very, very big mistake for the US to pull out of this agreement, It will open the door for other countries, other countries “that … are on the fence as far as watching climate control.”
Retired Coal Minter laments Jobs lost
In Centertown, Kentucky, retired coal miner Kenny Smith watched Trump’s TV announcement with approval.
“He’s keeping his promise that he’s going to help get the coal jobs back, help people get back to work, and that’s what we need, anywhere in this country,” Smith said. “You can go to Detroit, you can go to Pennsylvania you can go to West Virginia, there’s people that have been laid off for years, they’re just forgotten. And most of our factories have gone overseas, we need to get them back, I think he’s trying to do that.”
Trucks constantly rumble through town from the Midway mine, a major employer, but production has fallen from around 10 million tons of coal a year to less than half that figure.
Trump “said when he (got) elected, that’s the first thing, jobs, jobs, jobs. That’s what he said he’d do, and that’s what he’s doing,” Smith said. “I mean, I’m proud of him.”
Smith, 67, dismissed the idea that coal is unhealthy or environmentally unsound. He pointed in the direction of a coal-fired power plant.
“I’ve lived in this house since 1974 and that power plant has never made me sick,” he said. “There’s good jobs that come from power plants.”
West Virginia coal country eyes revival
In West Virginia’s coal country, Tod Tuttle, the co-owner of a small roadside grocery store near two mines, applauded Trump for what he’d done for the local industry.
“Under Obama our business was lacking big time. Trump’s taken over and we’ve come back around,” Tuttle said. “A lot of places here have come back around.”
West Virginia has had an uptick in coal production late last year and so far this year, attributed by industry officials to higher market prices and increased demand for metallurgical coal. Tuttle credits Trump.
“When the mines are working it’s booming like crazy,” he said. “When the mines are down … our business was just trickling.”
About the Paris agreement, he said that issue isn’t really with coal itself, which is still needed for reliable electrical generation without outages.
“You can burn the coal, and if these companies do it right,” Tuttle said. “They always blame the coal mines. It’s not the coal mines. It’s the electric plants themselves.”
California wants more wind, change of direction
The president’s decision disappointed Nancy Rader, executive director of the California Wind Energy Association.
The Berkeley-based nonprofit is supported by makers of wind turbines, contractors, component suppliers and project developers.
“I think it’s pretty sad that Trump sees this in terms of a deal, as something as simple as that,” Rader said. “This is about the future of the planet. This is about the health and safety of our children.”
California and other states already are working to reduce carbon emissions by shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy and the cost of such alternatives has dropped dramatically, she said.
California and the United States must be on the “leading edge” of the shift in order to reap the greatest economic rewards, Rader said.
Rader also said she was heartened that leaders of other countries “understand that Americans generally understand climate change, we want to do something about it.”
“Unfortunately, we have a president that doesn’t get it right now,” she said.