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Coal Issue Catches Fire In Presidential Campaign
Coal Issue Catches Fire In Presidential CampaignBy Pierre Bertrand, International Business Times
At a conference hosted by the Eastern Coal Council on Monday in Kingsport, Tenn., speakers said President Barack Obama's Environmental Protection Agency is "at war with the coal industry."
The share of power generation in the U.S. by burning coal has fallen to near a 35-year low.
The coal industry especially reviles the allegedly burdensome regulations that it says are hurting its growth.
"For years, President Obama and the EPA have actively engaged in a war on coal," said Rep. Morgan Griffith, a Republican from Virginia, a state with a long history of coal mining. Griffith was speaking at the conference, hosted by an industry group.Griffith's comments came as PJM Interconnection, a Pennsylvania-based power grid operator, locked in higher utility rates on Monday -- because, Griffith said, of added regulations from the federal government.
Bill Kovacs, senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a pro-industry lobbying group, told the Kingsport Times-News the EPA has 154,538 pages of regulations on the coal industry, and since March 2010, 350 coal energy projects have not been able to get EPA permits.
Those regulations impeded the creation of 1.9 million jobs with a total economic impact of $570 billion, the Times-News said.
The complaints are part of Republican atrtacks on the Obama administration's so-called "all of the above" energy plan, which emphasizes "clean" and renewable energy sources to satisfy the nation's demand for energy.
It is a policy that front-runner Republican candidate Mit Romney and oil industry groups say does not go far enough to meet the country's immediate demand for energy. Obama has been repeatedly criticized on his stance on the Keystone XL pipeline, and energy in gerneral, and coal groups are joining in.
On the campaign trail in 2008, Obama was a supporter of the technology known as "clean coal," but since then, the president's attention to coal has waned, said critics.
The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity released attack ads this week against the EPA.
"America has centuries of a coal - a proven energy source - yet the EPA has spent the past three years enacting heavy-handed regulations that are attacking the coal industry, destroying jobs and increasing the cost of electricity for millions of American families and businesses," said Evan Tracey, a spokesman for the coal group.
The EPA has indeed enacted tougher regulations on coal-fired power plants, especially with respect to their emission standards, but most have been adopted pursuant to court orders, reported Politico.
The coal industry in general is facing tougher times. With a booming natural gas sector and falling prices for natural gas, power companies find it cheaper to build natural gas-powered plants, or convert coal-fired plants to gas. Environmental groups have also been effective in attacking the coal industry's environmental record. As a result, coal is losing market share.The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported coal-powered electricity is expected to decline by roughly 15 percent in 2012 while natural gas electric generation will increase by 24 percent.