- The Washington Times - Monday, June 2, 2014

As the climate debate in Washington focused on the policy and the politics, for many beyond the Beltway the new EPA rules released Monday mandating sharply reduced emissions from the nation’s power plants will have a direct impact on their livelihoods.

The Environment Protection Agency’s “flexible” plan to dramatically reduce carbon emissions by 2030 places a heavy cloud over the business future for the coal industry.

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan will set guidelines to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030, allowing states time to design their own plans according to their own individual reduction requirements. More coal-dependent states face a much tougher task in reducing their emissions levels.

The pain will not be equally shared — some states get very little of their electricity from coal-powered plants, while others, including West Virginia, Kentucky and Nebraska, are heavily reliant on coal power.

Bill Raney, West Virginia Coal Association president, said the coal community has already witnessed the backlash from previous EPA regulations, causing worry throughout the industry.

“It’s disturbing and disconcerting,” he said. “From our perspective, this is all wrong-headed.”


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Mr. Raney said politically driven EPA regulations have caused a slowdown in the market and a decrease in demand for electricity. In an economy that wasn’t flourishing to begin with, new regulations out of Washington have an even more pronounced effect.

In the last two years alone, West Virginia lost 3,000 direct coal mining jobs, Mr. Raney said. That is no small number of unemployed workers in West Virginia’s coal culture.

“When you lay a coal miner off, you take a piece of West Virginia with you,” he said.

Cecil E. Roberts, United Mine Workers of America president, estimated a loss of 152,000 coal mining, power plant and railroad jobs by 2035.

Pennsylvania Coal Alliance CEO John Pippy predicted that “thousands of direct coal industry jobs will be lost” because of the EPA regulations.

“Anything that seeks to or has the effect of shutting down coal-fired power plants is an assault on Pennsylvania jobs, consumers, and those citizens who rely upon affordable, abundant domestic energy,” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, said in a statement.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates an average of 224,000 fewer jobs every year leading up to 2030 under the EPA’s new rules. Supporters of the plan highlight the future of healthier people when pollution is dramatically reduced. The prevention of at least 2,700 premature deaths and 140,000 asthma attacks in children will coincide with the reduction of carbon emissions by 2030, the EPA stated.

For Mr. Laney, however, the unemployed coal miners who have lost health insurance should be factored into the government’s calculations.

“The healthiest people we have in West Virginia are those who have jobs,” he said.

Duke Energy supplies electricity to 7.2 million customers through a mix of coal, nuclear, natural gas and oil. The company said in a statement that it is still reviewing the proposal.

“We strive to keep our customers’ rates as low as possible and our evaluation of the proposed rule will include a thorough examination of potential compliance costs our customers will ultimately bear,” the statement said. “It is too soon to tell what impact EPA’s proposed rule will have on our operations.”

The United Mine Workers’ Mr. Roberts said in a statement that the coal miners have provided energy to America for 150 years and now, “our reward is to be kicked to the curb.”

“I assure you, if that is the choice before us, we will not go quietly. We will not be out of sight. We will not be forgotten. You will hear from us.”

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