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Report: Up to 17,000 jobs lost from coal plant shutdowns

With 205 coal-fired generators shutting down in the coming years due to increased competition from cheap natural gas and stricter environmental regulations, costing the U.S. between 13,000 and 17,000 jobs, according to the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

“Most of these plant shutdowns are expected to occur by 2015 and will result in direct job losses at the plants, as well as indirect and induced jobs lost in the communities where the plants operate,” according to ACCCE.

Between 4,000 and 5,000 of the job losses will be due to coal plant shutdowns directly, according to ACCCE. Adding in state-based employment multipliers from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the total job loss from coal plant retirements is projected to be between 12,700 and 16,600 — a conservative estimate the group notes.

States that will see the biggest job losses are Ohio and Pennsylvania — each losing about 3,000 jobs due to coal plant closures.

Coal plants and mines all over coal-country have already been affected by companies scaling back operations and laying off workers.

In February, GenOn announced it was shuttering 13 percent of its generating capacity — mostly in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New jersey — by 2015 due to new environmental regulations.

Over the summer, OhioAmerican Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Murray Energy Corp., announced layoffs in Ohio after five years of operation and that about 50 employees would be affected.

Also, PBS Coals Inc. and its affiliate, RoxCoal Inc. laid off 225 workers working in deep and surface mines in July, citing low demand and aggressive regulations.

Last month, coal company Alpha Natural Resources announced it would be laying off 1,200 workers and closing eight coal mines in Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania to face two new challenges: cheap natural gas and “a regulatory environment that’s aggressively aimed at constraining the use of coal.”

Congressional Republicans say the Obama administration launched a “war on coal.”

“Since taking office, the Obama Administration has waged a multi-front war on coal — on coal jobs, on the small businesses in the mining supply chain, and on the low-cost energy that millions of Americans rely upon,” said Washington Republican Rep. Doc Hastings on the House floor.

However, the administration and congressional Democrats have pushed back, saying coal’s primary problem is cheap natural gas, not regulations.

“So in my opinion the problem for coal right now is entirely economic,” EPA Chief Administrator Lisa Jackson told the Guardian in June. “The natural gas that this country has and is continuing to develop is cheaper right now on average. And so people who are making investment decisions are not unmindful of that — how could you expect them to be?”

“It just happens that at the same time, these rules are coming in place that make it clear that you cannot continue to operate a 30-, 40-, or 50-year old plant and not control the pollution that comes with it,” Jackson continued.

“The Republicans are saying there is a war on coal, but the only battle coal is losing is in the free market to natural gas,” Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts said.

Despite veto threats from the President, the Republican-controlled House voted 233 to 175 for the Stop the War on Coal Act, passing a bill that would limit the EPA’s regulatory authority over greenhouse gases and limit the Interior Department’s ability to issue coal mining rules.

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