By Rep. David B. McKinley
May 2, 2017 - Over the last eight years, America’s coal industry has withstood a withering attack from unelected bureaucrats in Washington. While our Constitution makes it clear Congress writes the laws, the president enforces them and the courts interpret them, the Obama administration was determined to impose its radical climate-change agenda by relentlessly governing through executive orders and bypassing Congress.
As a result, over 3,500 new rules and regulations were imposed by the executive branch, including 1,500 rules on coal alone.
Few industries were harmed the way the coal industry was.
The war on coal devastated small towns and rural communities. In total, over 400 mines closed, 246 coal-fired plants shut down and over 83,000 jobs were lost. This is hardly a level playing field. The economy of my home state of West Virginia was pummeled.
When the American people went to the polls in November, it was made perfectly clear that they no longer wanted a growing federal government that dictated and imposed painful regulations.
The outgoing Obama administration missed that message, however, as they still tried to force through another rule that would sideline up to 87 percent of longwall minable coal. This rule would have rewritten over 400 existing regulations, shut down more coal mines, and jeopardized the livelihoods of over 78,000 workers and their families. It was an outrageous attack on working families and an attempt to put a final nail in the coffin of the coal industry.
As chairman of the Congressional Coal Caucus, it was my No. 1 priority to reverse this kind of government abuse. After working with other members, we were able to pass legislation that was later signed by President Trump to stop this rule. Washington must stop picking winners and losers and ignoring the realities of the marketplace. We cannot continue to attack the coal industry if we are going to stay economically competitive with the rest of the world — which still has a voracious appetite for coal.
Developing countries are building coal plants at a rapid rate and planning to burn coal well into the future. Japan and South Korea are building 61 new coal plants. India plans to double its coal output by 2020, and China is looking to increase its coal consumption by 70 percent by 2040.
We also know that shutting down coal plants here in America will have little to no impact on our planet’s environment. According to the United Nations, if the United States were to stop using coal, it would only reduce global emissions by two-tenths of 1 percent.
Instead of imposing a partisan political ideology, Congress should focus on an “all of the above” energy plan that would:
•Adopt a bipartisan national energy policy.
•Advance clean coal technology.
•Fund fossil energy research.
•Export high-quality American coal to developing countries.
•Invest in retrofitting our existing fleet with new technology and allow for the construction of new, reliable, high-performing plants.
•Explore chemical looping, carbon capture and oxy combustion.
•Develop innovative energy technology to sell to other countries that burn coal.
We already know that clean coal is an obtainable objective. West Virginia is home to Longview Power Plant, the cleanest and most efficient coal-fired power plant in North America. However, because of the Obama administration’s New Source Performance Standards (NSPS), utilities cannot replicate or improve upon their technological advancements. The NSPS is just another set of handcuffs placed on the coal industry that will cost America jobs and drive up prices for consumers.
With President Trump, we now have a partner in the White House who understands just how painful these rules can be. His administration has already shown that cutting red tape and providing our economy with relief from the regulatory attack out of Washington will allow America to reclaim our mantle of energy leadership on the world stage.
We need to keep the momentum going. So let’s work together towards a more balanced approach that transcends partisan politics, and provides clarity and certainty by embracing all of our energy sources.
Republican Rep. David B. McKinley, P.E. represents the 1st Congressional District of West Virginia. He is the chairman of the Congressional Coal Caucus and serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.