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Obama cops Alpha pain blame

US PRESIDENT Barack Obama is clearly the bulls-eye at the center of the anger target over the announcement by Alpha Resources that it will send 1200 of its workers to the unemployment line and idle eight mines.

Donna Schmidt
Obama cops Alpha pain blame

Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney quickly blamed the administration for the latest in what has become a long string of mine closures and production cuts that resulted in pink slips for thousands of miners.

“President Obama’s war on coal has claimed its latest victims,” he said.

“The Obama Administration’s economic and regulatory policies are destroying jobs across the country and coal communities have been among the hardest hit. For the sake of so many hardworking Americans and the families that depend on them, this must change.

“I have spent my life creating jobs … Barack Obama has spent his presidency destroying them. Coal country deserves better over the next four years.”

The states most impacted are Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Industry advocacy group the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance said the announcement would not just affect the miners and families of the state, but ripple outwards to other states.

“It represents another painful example of the Environmental Protection Agency’s ‘war on coal’ which is really a war on people – deliberately squeezing thousands of families out of the middle class during the most difficult economic conditions of our generation,” PCA chief executive John Pippy said.

“Alpha is managing its way through this challenging environment and will hopefully emerge stronger through these necessary adjustments to the current market for coal.”

In West Virginia, Senator Joe Manchin said his thoughts were with the families of the hundreds of miners who lost jobs because “this country lacks an energy policy that fully uses all of our domestic resources to benefit our great country”.

He too looked to the EPA.

“Companies like Alpha have ridden ups and downs of the market for many years – but they can’t be expected to fight their own government too,” he said.

“The difference between those times and now is that companies didn’t have to deal with the overreaching of an EPA that makes it impossible to build any certainty into the future. Especially at a time when our economy is so fragile and good-paying jobs are hard to come by, it’s clear that our federal government needs to start working with us and not against us.”

A balance between the environment and the economy must be found. However, Manchin – a staunch coal advocate and former state governor – said the EPA had worked hard to avoid finding that balance.

“One of my highest priorities is to get this Congress to rein in the out-of-control EPA,” he said.

“I’m also going to fight to make sure that we have an energy policy that works and uses all our domestic resources for the benefit of this country. That’s the only thing that makes sense to me and the people of West Virginia – and that’s the only way we can keep hardworking miners on the job.”

Virginia, which up until now had lost a smaller percentage of coal jobs in comparison to the embattled coalfields of West Virginia and Kentucky, also has its head in its hands. Three of the eight Alpha mines to be closed are within its borders as well as the mine’s headquarters office.

Governor Bob McDonnell said he was saddened to learn of the company’s move.

“It is always a tragedy when someone loses their job. It is an even greater tragedy when that job loss occurs because of specific policies that hurt an industry,” he said.

“These regulations are making it harder and harder for coal companies to operate and compete. And these regulations are eliminating good-paying jobs that Virginians need. That is unacceptable.”

He targeted the administration not only for this week’s announcement, but also for the many setbacks to job creation, energy security and economic growth that had stemmed from “anti-business policies” under Obama.

“There is a direct and clear connection between the President’s negative energy policies and job losses in Virginia’s energy sector,” McDonnell said.

Alpha’s mine closures have already begun and will extend through 2013. Company officials have said about 270 of the 400 workers immediately pink-slipped would be eligible for transfers to other Alpha locations.

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