U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday joined thousands of coal miners and their families, including hundreds from Kentucky, for the Count on Coal rally outside the United States Capitol.
The following are Senator McConnell’s remarks (as prepared) from the event:
“Thank you. Welcome to the hundreds of Kentuckians who have traveled to Washington to participate today in this rally. You represent the thousands of people who prove every day that coal keeps the lights on. Thank you for your hard work in the coal mines of Kentucky.
“It’s no secret that since this president took office, he and his administration have declared a war on coal. To Kentuckians, a war on coal is a war on a vital sector of our state’s economy, a war on a way of life for many people, and most importantly, a war on jobs.
“The EPA’s latest salvo in the War on Coal is that it has announced nearly a dozen “listening sessions” to be held across the country, to hear from people who have a stake in the regulations they impose. Yet they have already determined what they want to hear. Sessions are scheduled for places like San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, and New York City. But there is not one anywhere in or near Kentucky.
“For a Kentucky coal miner or energy sector worker to attend one of these sessions, the closest is in Atlanta, Georgia—a seven-hour drive away.
“I have personally requested of EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy that a hearing be added in Pikeville, Kentucky, the heart of coal country. Because the bureaucrats in the EPA and this administration ought to hear firsthand how the regulations they impose affect Kentucky families.
“Last month, the EPA introduced new climate change regulations targeting new coal-fired power plants. New coal plants would need to install extremely expensive carbon capture equipment—equipment with limited commercial availability—to limit climate-change emissions.
“Since the required carbon-capture technology is not readily available on the market at this time, requiring the use of this technology essentially serves as a ban on the development of new coal-fired power plants. These regulations will lead to fewer jobs and higher utility rates for Kentuckians.
“This is another attempt by the President to fulfill his long-term commitment to shut down our nation’s coal mines. Sadly, it does not come as a shock, given his failed attempt at getting Congress to pass a cap-and-tax bill designed to hike utility rates and bankrupt the coal industry.
“That’s why I announced my intent to invoke the authority of Congress and demand a vote to repeal them, by filing a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act. This will ensure Congress holds a vote to stop this devastating EPA rule.
“Recently, I also introduced the Saving Coal Jobs Act. It is a combination of two bills, one of which I introduced earlier this year, the Coal Jobs Protection Act, which would counter the Administration’s War on Coal.
“The first part of the bill would prevent the EPA from regulating carbon on new and existing coal plants. The second would end the EPA’s practice of sitting on permit applications. The bill prevents the EPA from using the coal permitting process as an illegitimate stalling tactic to shut down coal mines permanently by sitting on permits indefinitely and removing certainty from the regulatory process.
“Unfortunately, this bill was blocked from being considered by the full Senate by the Majority Leader, Harry Reid.
“I think it’s clear that this administration’s true goal is not to see the coal industry actually comply with its unreasonable regulations and red tape. It’s to see it driven out of business altogether.
“Since he was sworn in, President Obama has launched a sustained and relentless attack on the coal industry.
“The EPA’s regulations have caused Kentucky coal jobs to plummet from 18,600 the year Obama took office to just 13,000 today.
“Last month, a major employer, the James River Coal Company, announced 525 layoffs in its eastern Kentucky mines.
“They either don’t understand or care that coal employs 13,000 people in the Bluegrass State, and pays more than $1 billion dollars in direct wages to Kentuckians every year. For every miner employed, three more Kentuckians hold jobs indirectly dependent on coal.
“Moreover, the Commonwealth’s abundant supply of coal provides our state with low electric rates that allow Kentucky to attract and maintain a strong manufacturing base. Aluminum smelting, automobile part manufacturing and agriculture are only three electricity-dependent industries that would suffer without such low-cost electricity provided by coal. Any action by the EPA to reduce or diminish a Kentucky coal-fired public utility would be a direct threat to our coal industry.
“The good news is that I am President Obama’s number-one adversary standing up to his anti-coal agenda.
“I consistently hear from Kentuckians how the president’s war on coal negatively impacts every Kentucky individual and small business—from dairy farmers, to grocery stores, to aluminum manufacturers.
“President Obama, Harry Reid, the Democrats in Congress, and the EPA need to learn a lesson from Jimmy Rose: Coal keeps the lights on and the bills paid. We will not let them continue their War on Coal.”