Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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September 22, 2013

Saving Coal Jobs Act: Vital legislation sought by McConnell

— — Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is increasingly becoming a vocal voice for coal in the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate. That makes him a friend of the coalfields of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia as well.

McConnell, who represents the coal-producing state of Kentucky, has refocused attention on coal in recent days by consolidating two bills that have been languishing in Congressional committees for months. McConnell once again offered them up for a vote last week on the Senate floor but without success.

McConnell’s efforts came one day before tough requirements for new coal-fired power plants were rolled out by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The new EPA rules impose for the first time strict limits on pollution that the Obama administration blames for global warming. In order to meet the new standards, new coal-fired power plants would need to install expensive technology to capture carbon dioxide and bury it underground. No coal-fired power plant has done that yet, in large part because of the cost, the Associated Press reported last week.

The consolidated measure, which McConnell has dubbed the Saving Coal Jobs Act, would streamline the permitting process for opening or expanding coal mines by setting deadlines for the Environmental Protection Agency to act. It also would correctly block any new EPA carbon pollution mandates on coal-fired power plants.

You would think both common-sense measures would be fully embraced by the Senate. But they haven’t. And that’s a shame. Many in the U.S. Senate instead continue to follow the lead of President Barack Obama, who blames coal and other fossil fuels on climate change.

New federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations aimed at limiting global warming pollution would make it nearly impossible for companies to build new coal-fired plants in the U.S. Dozens more have already closed, or will be closing soon, including the Appalachian Power plant in Glen Lyn. Hundreds of good-paying jobs are being lost because of this administration’s stance on global warming — a science that is still debated in some circles. In fact, just last week it was reported that the heating of the Earth appears to have slowed down in the past 15 years even though greenhouse gas emissions have risen.

McConnell argues that Kentucky is facing a “genuine emergency” in terms of coal mining job losses in the state. Just last week the Virginia-based James River Coal announced it is laying off an additional 525 miners in the mountains of eastern Kentucky.

“The EPA’s actions ignore the thousands of people in my home state of Kentucky who depend on the coal industry for their livelihoods,” McConnell said. “In the year President Obama took office there were over 18,600 employed in the coal industry in my state. But as of September 2013, the number of persons employed at Kentucky coal mines is only 13,000.”

We would argue that the coalfields of West Virginia and Virginia, and all of the coal-producing states of Appalachia, are facing the same emergency that Kentucky is. The U.S. Senate should take up the Saving Coal Jobs Act now. This emergency legislation merits an immediate vote. It shouldn’t be left to languish in congressional committees in the U.S. Senate.

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