MCKINLEY AND GRIFFITH: Obama coal regulations crippling communities

War on fossil fuels strangling the economy, too

By Rep. David B. McKinley and Rep. H. Morgan Griffith

The war on jobs and affordable energy is real and continues to pick up steam with a swarm of new regulations coming out of President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency contributing to more mine closures and plant shutdowns across the country. Last week, we witnessed the latest round of victims in the war on coal, with Georgia Power Co. announcing its plans to shutter 15 fossil-fuel-fired electric units, impacting nearly 500 jobs in the state.

Georgia Power explained that the high cost of new EPA rules, including the rule setting maximum achievable control technology (known as Utility MACT) standards, was a contributing factor for the closures. Sadly, it is just one of several companies that have cited a hostile regulatory environment as a reason for layoffs in the past year. When Ohio American Energy Inc. announced it was shutting down mining operations in Brilliant, Ohio, the company’s news release cited “regulatory actions by President Barack Obama and his appointees” as the “entire reason” for the mine’s closure and layoffs, which will impact 240 workers. Alpha Natural Resources Inc. recently announced it would eliminate 1,200 jobs companywide as a result of mine closures in Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, stating the decision was due in part to “a regulatory environment that’s aggressively aimed at constraining the use of coal.”

New natural gas discoveries are leading some utilities to switch from coal to natural gas, but there is no doubt that the regulatory crackdown on coal is accelerating and exacerbating coal-fired utility closures. However, it is unclear whether natural gas prices will remain low under this administration’s harsh regulatory policies. In truth, the Obama administration has waged a war against all fossil fuels by discouraging the development and production of these affordable resources, despite the fact that fossil fuels provide more than 80 percent of the nation’s energy supply. Our president is paying lip service to an “all-of the-above” energy plan, while at the same time trying to regulate into oblivion one of our most abundant and affordable energy resources.

The total number of announced plant retirements nationwide is already more than triple the amount the EPA had predicted would be caused by its regulations, and studies suggest more closures are imminent. The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity reports that EPA regulatory policies already have contributed to the announced retirement of more than 250 coal-fired units, totaling more than 38,000 megawatts. The North American Electric Reliability Corp. recently issued its Long-Term Reliability Assessment, which showed that plants responsible for 20 percent of the nation’s coal-fired electricity generation may be lost by 2017.

Coal miners and utility workers are most directly affected by the EPA’s anti-coal agenda, but studies show the layers of new regulations will have a significant effect on other sectors of the economy as well. According to a study by the National Association of Manufacturers, the cumulative impact of six major new EPA rules could cost manufacturers hundreds of billions of dollars and eliminate millions of American jobs.

Communities in Virginia, West Virginia and across the country are enduring first-hand the destructive consequences of this administration’s regulatory assault. The mounting layoffs are creating a domino effect, affecting the economies of local coal communities. A television reporter in Boone County, W.Va., put it best while reporting on local job losses, stating, “When the work underground stops, everything above pays the price."

Our families, friends and neighbors have fallen victim to this war on coal. It is destroying jobs and destroying a way of life. It is destroying American prosperity.

To get our economy working again, we need common-sense policies that encourage investment and job creation, not policies that prohibit the use of affordable energy resources. As members of the Energy and Commerce Committee, we will continue our work to stop the war on coal and allow our economy to grow and prosper again.

Rep. David B. McKinley is a West Virginia Republican. Rep. H. Morgan Griffith is a Virginia Republican. Both serve on the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on energy and power.

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