“We would see not just a few thousand layoffs, but tens of thousands of layoffs across the coal country of this nation – and then it would start to ripple out to other areas as well,” the Republican congressman, whose district includes one of the nation’s largest coal manufacturers, tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview. “It affects the railroads. It affects the ports. We’re going to see a real loss of economic power in this country.
“Coal usage in the world is going up, and other countries are using it and other countries are digging it. We’ve actually slipped to number two in coal production. China has passed us. Why does this administration think it’s good when China passes us on something that’s as important coal or any other industry?”
Griffith is facing a challenge from Democrat Anthony Flaccavento in Virginia's 9th District. Griffith won election in 2010, defeating longtime incumbent Rick Boucher.
The district suffered a major blow this week when Alpha Natural Resources Inc. said that it would close eight mines and eliminate 1,200 jobs — including 400 immediately — in Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
The company, which cited “a regulatory environment that's aggressively aimed at constraining the use of coal” as part of its decision, is based in Abingdon, located in Griffith’s district.
“This is not the first set of job cuts that we’ve had in the coal industry,” Griffith began. “It’s certainly the largest. We were very sad to see that, but when you have all of the factors coming together, it really is going to cost a lot of jobs – and it’s not just the coal jobs themselves.
“It affects the small businesses in those communities. It affects the people who provide the equipment for the mines. We’re seeing a lot of layoffs in my district.”
The Alpha layoffs also will raise energy prices.
“Electricity will cost more. Everybody says to switch to other fuels, but the truth is even with natural gas prices going down, it will cost the utilities a lot of money to switch over to natural gas –and then, naturally, the price of natural gas is expected to go up. And when that happens, they’re not going to switch back to the more affordable coal. The consumer is the one who takes it on the chin.”
“What’s interesting is the president knows that, but he doesn’t seem to care,” Griffith observed. He then referenced a 2008 interview in which President Barack Obama said his energy policies would make prices “skyrocket” and those costs would be passed on to consumers.
“Well, who does he think the consumer is?” the first-term representative asked. “It’s the middle-class people of the United States of America. It’s the people who are working and struggling to make ends meet in an economy that he’s created that’s so bad that we have more than eight percent of our people not working – and those are the ones who are still looking.”
This is why Griffith is backing the “Stop the War on Coal Bill,” to be voted on by the House of Friday. The legislation seeks to ease EPA regulations on the industry.
“We’re sending the message that we want the administration to stop their War on Coal, and the people in my district – and in West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania – they all need to realize that we’re going to lose a lot of jobs because of the president and the Environmental Protection Agency.
“They’re just out there trying to put coal out of business every time they get a chance, and it’s unfortunate,” Griffith added. “There are a lot of jobs on the line.”