Lawmakers urge Obama to stop "attack on coal"

LAWMAKERS from one of the hardest hit states in the coal industry are urging the administration to stop its “unfair attack on coal.”

Staff Reporter

In a letter to President Barack Obama, 50 members of the Kentucky House of Representatives expressed their concern about the recently announced Climate Action Plan, and the impact it would have on their state’s coal industry.

“At a time when our growing energy needs require an all-hands-on-deck strategy, we do ourselves a major disservice by pretending that what is still our largest sources of electricity can be marginalized,” the letter read.

“In Kentucky, coal is not just an energy source, it’s a way of life,” the legislators said, adding that coal was essential to the state’s employment, economy and revenue.

According to the KY lawmakers, the coal industry contributed $10 billion to the state’s economy in 2010 and was responsible for more than 42,000 jobs and $2.85 billion in earnings. The state also relies heavily on the coal industry for revenue — $230 million in severance tax receipts this year alone.

“Unfortunately, employment at Kentucky coal mines has decreased from more than 19,000 to nearly 14,000 in just the past few years.

“When these jobs are all but gone, can you tell us how we are supposed to replace them and the more than $1 billion in lost earnings? Job opportunities are already scarce in most of our mining communities.”

The Environmental Protection Agency’s new regulations would hit the state hard, with the Kentucky Coal Association claiming that the agency has also blocked about 40 mining permits in eastern Kentucky, which cost the region about 3,600 jobs in coal mines and other businesses.

The lawmakers wrote that power plants in Kentucky alone have already invested approximately $3.8 billion in capital for environmental control technology and the amount of funding that will be needed across the country to remodel existing plants and to acquire the equipment to comply with the proposed climate-action plan would be billions more on top of this.

“We recognize that your plan does include measures designed to mitigate that impact, but we worry this will be too little, too late,” they wrote.

“Anyone familiar with the cost of energy infrastructure knows that $8 billion in loan guarantees for new and cleaner fossil-fuel technologies is a drop in the bucket.”

Kentucky lawmakers also urged Obama to continue supporting clean coal technologies as well as coal-to-liquid initiatives.

“We believe our nation would be much better served by focusing on clean-coal technology with the same dedication and ingenuity put into the Manhattan Project and the space program,” the letter added.

“Beyond strengthening our own energy independence, imagine what a breakthrough in this area could do for other nations that also rely heavily on coal and have no intention of backing away. No other project could have a greater impact on our world this century.”

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