Dem and GOP govs hit back at Obama War on Coal

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple is joining other state executives in asking the Obama administration to abandon finalizing a greenhouse gas regulation that would effectively outlaw the construction of coal-fired power plants in the country.

Dalrymple has asked the administration to look at alternative ways to lower carbon emissions while still allowing power plants to burn coal in order to incentivize the development of cleaner technologies and prevent industry from being hurt.

“We can and should continue to use coal while also lowering emissions,” Dalrymple wrote in a letter to the president. “If finalized, EPA’s proposed rule will effectively ban these new [coal] plants from being built and prevent our country from generating more electricity with less fuel and fewer emissions.”

According to the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), more than 280 coal-fired units will be shut down nationwide, partly due to stricter environmental regulations.

In 2010, North Dakota generated 82 percent of its electricity from coal and coal plant shutdowns could impact power prices.

Dalrymple joins a growing group of states that have come out in opposition to the EPA’s pending regulation that would limit the amount of greenhouse gas power plants can emit. The way the rule is currently written, only new natural gas power plants would be able to meet the emissions standard — coal plants would effectively be outlawed.

Kansas, Montana and West Virginia have filed amicus briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court asking them to rule that the EPA misinterpreted its authority under the Clean Air Act and has gone beyond the limits of the law.

“The EPA’s proposed limits on greenhouse gas emissions threaten the livelihood of our coal miners to the point of killing jobs and crippling our state and national economies, while also weakening our country’s efforts toward energy independence,” said West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat.

The governors of Kentucky and Indiana have also weighed in on the issue, urging President Barack Obama to reject the new greenhouse gas emissions limits that the EPA is due to finalize. Indiana gets 90 percent of its power from coal plants, reports Indiana Public Media, and banning the construction of new coal plants could drive up electricity prices.

“Given the importance of low-cost energy to Hoosier jobs and economic growth, we’re going to continue to provide a very strong voice on behalf of common sense at the EPA and at the federal level,” said Indiana Republican Gov. Mike Pence.

In fact, coal power makes up at least half the electricity generated in 15 states, and at least one-quarter of the electricity generated in 29 states, according to ACCCE.

Kentucky and West Virginia are also among the top states for power generated from coal, as well as the No. 2 and No. 2 states in terms of coal mining production.

However, the number of Kentuckians employed by coal industry fell to its lowest point in half a century, shedding 5,700 coal jobs — a 30 percent drop from September 2011 employment numbers.

The Kentucky Coal Association says that the federal government has halted about 40 mining permits in the eastern part of the state which is costing the region 3,600 jobs in coal mines and other businesses.

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