Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

September 25, 2012

War on Coal — Senate must pass critical measure

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— While some pundits were quick to declare the “Stop the War on Coal Act” as a political move by Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives aimed at hurting President Barack Obama in battleground states like Virginia, those of us living in the coalfields of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia know better.

We realize that the five bills passed by the House last week, collectively referred to as H.R. 3409, and informally known as “The Stop the War on Coal Act,” is vital to the survival of an industry under siege by Washington. Our history, our future and our remaining coal mining jobs are under attack by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

One needs to look no further than last week’s devastating announcement of the loss of 1,200 coal mining jobs, and the closure of eight mines in Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania by coal producer Alpha Natural Resources as evidence of the negative impact of this war. Coal-fired plants across the region that once provided gainful employment to area residents also are being closed as a result of new overreaching regulations, including Appalachian Power’s Glen Lynn, Va., plant.

The “Stop the War on Coal Act” should not be viewed as dead on arrival in the U.S. Senate — as some political pundits are saying. Instead, the passage of this measure in the Senate should be viewed as absolutely imperative to our nation’s energy future.

This bipartisan legislation — supported by both Democrats and Republicans — passed the House by a vote of 235 to 175. That’s because some lawmakers in Washington still realize that coal is the fuel that powers more than 42 percent of our nation’s electrical generation. Some lawmakers realize that green energy, including the wind turbines and solar panels so fiercely advocated by President Barack Obama — cannot replace coal overnight. Some lawmakers in Washington still believe in coal, and advances in clean-coal technology.

And some lawmakers understand — and are respecting — two federal court rulings that found the EPA overstepped its boundaries by running roughshod over coal-producing states like Virginia and West Virginia. The U.S. Senate — when it takes up the “Stop the War on Coal Act” — must take these federal court rulings into consideration. And the Senate must pass this all-important measure.

Yes, it is true that both the House and the Senate have now left Washington so that lawmakers can hit the campaign trail. That means the earliest the Senate would take up this vital legislation is November. But this delay — if nothing else — will afford area residents more time to contact their senators, and demand the passage of “The Stop the War on Coal Act” in the U.S. Senate.

And we expect all lawmakers serving coal-producing states in the Senate to support this critical measure. That includes U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.; U.S. Sen. Jay  Rockefeller, D-W.Va.; U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va.; and U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.

Every job lost in the coal industry is another blow to our nation’s still anemic economic recovery. And the loss of 1,200 jobs is absolutely crippling.