Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

August 4, 2013

Mixed message — Obama administration spins coal

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— Talk about contradictory statements. First, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz says President Barack Obama is committed to coal playing a role in a national energy strategy — a comment met with skepticism here in the coalfields. Then one day later, new EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy tells an audience at Harvard Law school that her agency will continue to aggressively push new rules targeting coal-fired power plants in order to crack down on global warming.

But that’s not all. McCarthy now says that curbing climate-altering pollution will spark “ ... business innovation, grow jobs and strengthen the economy.” Really? Has she visited the coalfields of southern West Virginia or Southwest Virginia lately? Has she seen all of the mine closures. Has she talked to local coal miners and families who are unemployed, or face an uncertain future? Has she spoken to those employees who work at coal-fired power plants now set to close — such as Appalachian Power’s Glen Lynn, Va., plant in Giles County?

Apparently not. Instead she claims that the tough new environmental regulations “won’t kill” jobs. Instead, she says the rules represent the “opportunity of a lifetime” to address global warming. McCarthy may be the EPA’s new administrator, but her comments represent the same old song and dance that we’ve seen and heard from the Obama administration, and it’s EPA, since 2008. After all, this is the same president who once promised on the campaign trail in 2008 to bankrupt the coal industry.

That’s not to say that Moniz is intentionally trying to mislead folks. He is correct in pointing out that $6 billion has been invested in clean coal technology with a primary focus on capturing, storing and reusing carbon. We’ve seen such demonstration projects in our own region. But don’t forget that this is the same administration that squandered billions more in federal stimulus funds just a few years ago on unproven green technology companies and projects — some of which later went bankrupt. That was money that could have instead been used to build roads and bridges like the King Coal Highway and the Coalfields Expressway. And at the same time, the administration also is doing everything in its power to restrict growth in the coal industry by pushing impossible-to-meet new standards. In Obama’s first four years, the EPA has issued the first-ever limits on toxic mercury pollution from power plants, regulated greenhouse gases for the first time, and updated a host of air pollution health standards, according to a recent Associated Press report.

Now Obama is launching the first-ever federal regulations on carbon dioxide emitted by existing coal-fired power plants — and he’s doing so without congressional approval. Sometimes actions do speak louder than words. If the administration were truly serious about pushing coal as part of the nation’s national energy portfolio, its politically charged and unfairly overreaching EPA wouldn’t be trying so hard to destroy the industry.

At least a panel in the Republican-controlled House recently signed off on a plan to cut the EPA’s budget by a third while attaching a series of measures that aim to reign in the EPA. Although the Democratic-controlled Senate will undoubtedly reject the House measure, it at least shows that someone in Washington is standing up against the EPA and in support of fossil fuels such as coal.

Next time the administration tries to make a play for coalfield votes, it needs to get its message straight.