Kentuckians Deserve to have their Voices Heard by the EPA in President Obama’s War on Coal

Mitch McConnell
Mitch McConnell

The War on Coal being waged by this Administration has real costs for Kentuckians and for Kentucky jobs. The barrage of over-regulation and lack of certainty in the coal industry have contributed to a loss of 7,000 jobs since the year President Obama took office.

Despite the claims of many, it doesn’t have to be this way. According to the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, Kentucky coal jobs were actually up during the previous administration, by 3,500 jobs from 2001 to 2008.

That makes it clear to me that the layers upon layers of regulations this administration and this Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) keep piling on are contributing in a major way to this job decline. And yet, the EPA doesn’t want to hear from the very Kentuckians who will be most hurt by their pernicious regulations.

The EPA scheduled public listening sessions on its latest round of regulations for existing power plants—but not one of them was in or anywhere near Kentucky. The closest hearing for Kentuckians to travel to was in Atlanta, which for many is a 13-hour round trip.

The EPA claims everyone has the ability to be heard through online submission, fax or mail—but many in coal country are facing a depression and are out of work, making the internet and fax not readily accessible for some. And snail mail does not provide any assurance that Kentuckians’ comments have been received and are being taken seriously.

I invited the EPA to hold a hearing in Kentucky to accommodate my constituents, but they refused. That’s why last week I brought the concerns of Kentuckians to them at one of their listening sessions held in Washington, DC.

I also brought Jimmy Rose from Pineville, Kentucky. Jimmy is well known to many as the voice of coal country. He is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who served in Iraq, a former coal miner, and a finalist from the television show “America’s Got Talent.” He is famous for his song “Coal Keeps the Lights On”; it’s a reminder about this Kentucky resource that he’s eager to make every chance he gets. “Real families suffer from this civil war, this War on Coal,” Jimmy says.

I went to the EPA with Jimmy to deliver a message: Kentuckians deserve to be heard by the EPA. We deserve to have our concerns taken seriously. And we deserve a chance to say what these regulations are doing to coal miners, to the thousands who work in the coal industry, and to their families.

I also told the EPA that its latest round of regulations masquerade under the guise of allowing states the flexibility to meet a prescribed carbon reduction goal. But the effects of reaching this goal treat states differently, and play favorites.

Compare Kentucky with Washington State. Kentucky’s assigned target is to reduce carbon emissions in 2030 by 18 percent, while Washington State has been assigned a target over 70 percent.

This paints an illusion, by using percentages rather than real numbers, that Kentucky is getting off easy, but that is not the case. Kentucky will have to cut much more emissions than Washington to meet its target.

That is because Washington does not utilize low-cost, efficient and reliable coal-fired generation like Kentucky does. Washington will only have to close one coal-fired power plant to meet its goal of reducing emissions by over 70 percent.

Kentucky, however, with 20 coal-fired power plants that provide our state with 90 percent of its electricity, will have to cut significantly more jobs and reliable income for thousands of families across the state to meet its goal.

The EPA just doesn’t seem to get or care that its regulations are causing real pain to too many Kentuckians. I believe that to many EPA bureaucrats, coal miners in Kentucky are just numbers on a spreadsheet. They don’t realize that coal has provided generations of Kentuckians with a lifetime of honest work.

Well, I told them on behalf of all Kentuckians that we will not stand idly by while this administration and this EPA try to wipe out this lifeblood of our Commonwealth. I’m not afraid to stand up to the anti-coal interests in this administration. And I will keep doing so every chance I get. The Kentuckians I represent who make their living by coal deserve no less.

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