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Jim Justice asks for a little help from big government.

SAUL LOEB / Getty Images

West Virginia’s version of Paul LePage has asked his buddy, the president, to bail out Eastern coal to the tune of $4.5 billion, The Wall Street Journal reports:

“In the scope of things, that would be a drop in the bucket to protect ourselves,” Mr. Justice said. “And looking at the other side, you would put thousands and thousands and thousands of people to work, and the net-net of that is that the $4.5 billion would get eroded tremendously, so that it may end up costing almost nothing.”

But wait, you say! Isn’t Jim Justice a coal baron? He is, but rest assured: He insists that this bailout would not help him personally. (It’s also probably mere coincidence that Justice just switched parties to become a Republican once more.) Justice owns mines that produce metallurgic coal; the bailouts would assist mines that produce thermal coal. “I am not in play trying to pat myself on the butt,” as he eloquently put it.

But even if the bailouts won’t help his mines, they will help his electoral chances, which is all he really cares about. And what is good for Jim Justice is not necessarily good for West Virginia. The state needs money, but not in the form of investment in coal. These bailouts will only prolong the industry’s undignified demise, and at the expense of West Virginians, who have sacrificed land and health to coal’s grasping tentacles for centuries. If Justice really wanted to help his state, he’d ask for more money to help it transition away from a coal-dependent economy.

But he is a coal baron, and he will never put that question to his very good friend Donald Trump.