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‘War on Coal’ Hearing Held in St. Clairsville

August 1, 2012
By SARAH HARMON Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Reps. David McKinley and Bill Johnson testified Tuesday that President Barack Obama and his administration are waging a war on coal by enacting and enforcing environmental regulations that the coal industry cannot afford to implement.

"The EPA has aggressively put standards on coal-fired power plants that are unrealistic and uneconomical for utility companies to meet," Johnson, R-Ohio, said. "Power plants throughout the Midwest are left with the impossible decision of shutting down or spending billions of dollars raised through rate hikes on consumers to meet the new standards. This president doesn't seem to understand that for states like Ohio, which receives over 80 percent of its power from coal plants, the people who are hit the hardest are the seniors on fixed income, hardworking families and the small businesses that are the job engines of our economy."

McKinley, R-W.Va., agreed, noting that "under the pretext of global warming, his political support for radical environmental extremists and his passion for renewable energy models, President Obama is relentlessly pursuing a dangerous gamble of diminishing the contribution of coal in our country's energy portfolio."

Article Photos

Photo by Sarah Harmon
Tom Mackall, president of East Fairfield Coal Co., right, testifies with Tony Ahern, president of Buckeye Power, at a field hearing Tuesday called “The Green Agenda and the War on Coal.”

"This form of industrial harassment has already caused utilities across America to initiate plans to begin the closure of approximately 125 power plants. ... That results in almost 25 percent less power going into the grid because of this war on coal. But keep in mind, the EPA's own economic model only predicted a 2 percent reduction. How wrong they have been," McKinley said.

The testimony by the two local congressmen and others came during a House Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight and Government Spending field hearing held Tuesday at Ohio University Eastern in St. Clairsville. The forum was called "The Green Agenda and the War on Coal."

Other attendees included Reps. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., and James Jordan, R-Ohio; two power company presidents - Tony Ahern of Buckeye Power and Tom Mackall of the East Fairfield Coal Co.; Shawn M. Garvin, regional administrator for EPA Region III, and Bharat Mathur, deputy regional administrator for EPA Region V; Robert Hodanbosi of the Ohio EPA Division on Air Pollution Control; and Ohio Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta.

The subcommittee sought testimony to measure the impact of EPA regulations on coal production.

Garvin said the EPA has responsibilities under the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act that can impact coal production. He said implementing these statutes is "essential to protecting the air we breathe, the water we drink and the land where we live."

"You talk about focusing on jobs and focusing on coal. What we've been focusing on, in Region III, is working with our states and working with industry, at least on the coal mining side of it, so we can still ... extract (coal) while doing it in a way that protects public health and the environment," Garvin said.

Sener Calis, manager of industrial engineering for Murray Energy Corp. in Alledonia, has been working in the coal industry for 42 years. He testified that EPA regulations are making it harder for companies to mine coal.

"We have enough coal in this country to last us 300 years, to provide us with a clean source of energy, a reliable source of energy, but we are using less and less because of the environmental restrictions from the EPA. ... I had been in the (Ohio) Valley since 1972 and it's a much cleaner environment, it's a much better environment. As far as I'm concerned, it's about the cleanest we've ever been," he said.

"Because of coal, I was able to provide a good income for my family and my four children, and I really worry about the future of this county, our country, to see what they'll be doing, where we will get our energy sources," Calis added. "It's just doesn't makes sense to me that we just turn our back to the greatest blessing that we have in this country."

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