Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

July 17, 2012

Miners, manufacturers, more speak out for coal industry

By KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

ABINGDON, Va. — Coal miners, manufacturers, utility company presidents, and other officials spoke before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power Monday as part of a field hearing on the impact of the Environmental Protection Agency’s new source performance standards for greenhouse gas emissions.

U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., along with Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., were among the panelists at the hearing.

Donna Kessinger, a Southwest Virginia mother and certified electrician and mechanic at Cliffs Natural Resources’ Pinnacle Mine, was one of the many who testified before the committee. During the hearing, Kessinger said regulations currently being faced by the coal industry are putting jobs and families like hers at risk.

“Our jobs allow us to put food on the table, buy clothes for our children, and provide our families with good health care so we can lead productive lives,” Kessinger said to the panel. “Coal mining makes this possible. My industry is under attack, and that means my job is under attack. My livelihood and the well being of my family is at stake. I’m proud to be a coal miner. This is an honorable profession that should be respected.”

Griffith said Kessinger is a prime example of what many in the coal industry are facing as the result of EPA regulations.

“She is a single mom and worried about her job,” Griffith said. “She wants to make ends meet and there isn’t another job that could bring in the money she has now. She said being a coal miner is an honorable profession and should be respected. She is a woman who is just trying to raise her daughter and have a chance at living the American dream.”

Representatives from coal companies, utility companies and even a local yarn manufacturer also testified during the hearing.

“We had two utility company presidents from Dominion and one from Kentucky Utilities come to testify,” Griffith said. “We had a representative from the Buchanan County Chamber of Commerce who is also a coal manufacturer testify. We had a yarn manufacturer based out of Hillsville, Va., testify. A lot of manufacturers pointed out they were able to survive in the international market by using electric power. If electric prices go up, they have a difficult time competing and keeping their facilities open.”

Griffith said the field hearing in Abingdon is one of dozens being held across the nation, and said he requested a hearing in Southwest Virginia due to the prominence of the coal industry in the area.

“Clearly, I asked the chairman if he would come down,” Griffith said. “I thought it was important for people to see what we do and some of the witnesses would have found it difficult to travel to Washington to give their testimony. It was important to have this where the coal industry was. We had 450 to 500 people there to attend, so that was a good crowd. It is much larger than we normally would get at a hearing in Washington. On a big day, we might get 100 people in Washington for a hearing like this.”

Griffith said the main focus of the hearing was on how EPA regulations on greenhouse gasses are impacting coal jobs and the overall economy of the region.

“These greenhouse gas regulations impact local jobs and money,” he said. “ For me, it is hard to understand why they don’t understand; this is killing jobs. The spokesperson from Alpha Natural Resources said this is a hidden tax brought down by the Obama administration. I agree with that completely. The people who consume coal are you, me and the hard-working Americans. It is never AEP, Dominion or Kentucky Utilities who pay for the increased cost of coal but the elderly and the working men and women of our country. They have to foot the bill because companies will pass the costs of retrofitting operations on the consumer.”

According to Griffith, many who testified voiced fears that increased regulations would put an end to the coal industry.

“Basically, on the new carbon dioxide regulations a new coal-powered plant could not be opened in the U.S.,” he said. “There was also fear that these regulations could be applied to existing coal plants in the future. People felt that the EPA was taking coal off the list of fuels that can be used in this country. This was about jobs, electricity and the fact that the two were connecting as coal makes that electricity.”

Griffith said the hearing was broadcast live and will be available to all members of Congress once it is entered into the official record.

“We were able to put this into the official record so other members of Congress could see it,” he said. “Every member of the Energy and Power Subcommittee was invited. I think it is important we had all of this testimony on the record and to become part of the official record that will be filed. This is the 25th in a nationwide series of hearings about energy in the country, so this will go on to impact legislation in our country as well.”

Residents of Southwest Virginia were also able to see their government in action.

“I am so thankful that the people of Southwest Virginia had the opportunity to add their voices to the conversation about the Obama administration’s energy policies,” Griffith said. “I hope that the hearing helped to shed light on the war on coal and the negative impact the president, his policies, and Washington bureaucrats are having on jobs across the region and the country.”  

— Contact Kate Coil at

kcoil@bdtonline.com