One day before the West Virginia primary, the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee proposed eliminating up to 90 percent of the regulations on coal.

Donald Trump has promised to bring back lost jobs in coal and steel industries in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

When asked in an interview with the Tribune-Review how he’d do that, Trump said: “We need a combination of the regulations being taken off, you know, the ones that are not important, which is about 90 percent of them.”

Trump noted that he has told the miners they will be going back to work.

“That is a little different than what Hillary said,” he said.

In March, former secretary of State and likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton told a CNN panel: “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” Clinton added she supported job training for displaced workers.

Trump’s proposal is “absurd,” said John Hanger, former Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary under Gov. Ed Rendell.

“Trump has one way to make coal come back, and that’s to push the price of natural gas to $6 per thousand cubic feet,” Hanger said, noting that coal is primarily used to generate electricity in the United States, and increasingly it has been replaced by cheaper gas.

“Even if you eliminate 100 percent of the regulations and go back to those good ol’ days when we killed thousands of miners each year, polluted streams all across the commonwealth and started some 30 coal mine fires that are still burning today, it won’t bring coal back,” Hanger said. “The man is a really bad joke. … The coal miners deserve so much better than this.”

West Virginia is one of the states most devastated by a decline in the coal industry and manufacturing, said Bruce Haynes, a Washington-based Republican media consultant at Purple Strategies.

“Trump clearly has a strategy of being the champion of the working men and women of this country, and nowhere is that strategy more evident than in coal country,” Haynes said. “This is his whole approach for November wrapped up in one little state.”

Trump became the party’s presumptive nominee last Tuesday when Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich dropped out of the primary contests after losing in Indiana.

Trump attracted nearly 13,000 to a rally in Charleston, W.Va., late last week.

Salena Zito is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review.

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