On Monday, U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) unveiled new legislation that would require the EPA to expedite the process for coal companies seeking permits to open new mines, as covered by the Associated Press. U.S. Representative Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) plans to introduce similar legislation in the House next week.
McConnell’s “Coal Jobs Protection Act” is a promising step in protecting the coal industry from what he asserts is EPA action beyond its “scope of authority” by making the permitting process for coal mines more burdensome, The Hill noted.
“Coal is a vital part of my state’s economy, and a vital part of America’s energy portfolio,” McConnell said. “The EPA’s attack on this important Kentucky industry hampers the growth of jobs, and it especially hampers the growth of small business — the greatest engine of job creation.”
McConnell clearly recognizes the importance of coal in keeping our nation’s economy strong, providing good jobs to hard-working Americans, and preserving access to affordable and reliable energy. In his own state of Kentucky, over 4,000 coal industry jobs have been lost – a drop of nearly 30 percent – prompting action through this new legislative measure.
In a US Senate confirmation hearing yesterday, Gina McCarthy, President Obama’s pick to lead the EPA, told a Senate panel on Thursday that coal will remain important in the U.S. energy mix and that if confirmed that she will be flexible in applying new pollution rules for coal-fueled power plants.
“Coal has been and will continue to be a significant source of energy in the United States, and I take my job seriously when developing those standards to provide flexibility in the rules,” McCarthy said.
According to a story from Reuters, “Republican Senators John Barrasso of Wyoming and James Inhofe of Oklahoma, among others, quizzed McCarthy about the economic impact of its rules on states that rely on coal as a primary energy source, and about her feelings toward job losses when coal plants close.”
Barrasso said rules that prevent new coal plants from being built and would potentially shut down existing coal plants are already causing “chronic unemployment” in Wyoming.
“I haven’t heard yet any plain statements from EPA –hopefully we will today from this nominee – about the negative health impacts and lives lost from chronic unemployment caused by the EPA policies,” he said. “This is a serious health epidemic and it seems to go unnoticed by the EPA. How many more times will an EPA administrator pull the regulatory lever that will allow another mining family to fall through the EPA’s trap door of joblessness, poverty and poor health,” he said. “Are coal miners no longer heroes to the nominee and the EPA? These people are heroes and they deserve better than they’re getting from the EPA,” Barrasso said.
Coal is mined in 25 U.S. states and is responsible for more than 760,000 jobs in the United States. Wyoming is the largest coal-producing state, followed by West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Illinois.
E&E News reported this afternoon that 36 states are striking back against a U.S. EPA plan to force them to rewrite rules that suspend emissions standards for pollution sources during startup, shutdown and malfunction periods, calling it an infringement on states’ rights.
According to E&E: “EPA in February announced that it would work with 36 states to amend their implementation plans for the so-called SSM periods. Environmentalists have said that exempting power plants from pollution standards during those periods is a massive loophole that EPA needs to close.
But states have struck back against the decision, saying it’s an overreach by EPA. In a request sent last month, 18 state attorneys general say the proposal ‘impermissibly seeks to intrude on the states’ clear authority to determine the means to achieve attainment of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.”
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