WHEELING - The coal industry will flex its political muscle to influence who next will be in the White House and make certain carbon reduction policies announced by President Barack Obama will not soon be enacted, according to Chris Hamilton, vice president of the West Virginia Coal Association.
The president's plan to combat climate change will take at least three years to implement - and there is also most certain to be litigation to slow its path, Hamilton said.
Additionally, he expects it will be well into the next administration before Obama's policies will be go into effect. As a result, the coal industry will work to influence the next presidential election in 2016, Hamilton said.
"We're prepared going forward to call the president out on this issue," he said. "We will call upon our Congressional delegation - particularly the Democratic members - to withhold their support going forward for other components of the national Democratic platform."
But Hamilton said that while some consequences of this week's climate change policy announced by Obama could be addressed in the coming months, decisions are being made today that affect the coal industry and what people pay for their energy costs, based upon the potential implementation of the policies.
"We're seeing a total stifling of investment, financing and some operational upgrades necessary to sustain coal-fired power plants into the future, " he said. "This policy pretty much guarantees there won't be another coal-fired generator put on the drawing books - not with this type of policy hanging over us. It's atrocious - there's no doubt about that. It's as concerning as anything that's ever been announced with respect to coal and energy policy."
The environment has improved greatly over the past 30 years, but the advancements came gradually, Hamilton said. Any additional improvements to air quality also will have to be continual over the coming decades, he continued.
"We are burning three times the amount of coal in the country today than we were in 1975," Hamilton said. "And we're controlling airborne emissions at the tune of 97 percent .... everything has been essentially eliminated out of the smokestack today. You can't place demands that you clean up the remainder of the constituent in five years. It's all about the timeline, and the timeline imposed here is just totally unrealistic for the technology that doesn't exists. They're setting forth requirements for performance standards that require technology that is not commercially available."