Unions protest Obama on coal

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Labor unions are a mainstay of the Democratic Party, but an increasing number of them are taking issue with Obama administration environmental policies that are deemed harmful to the coal industry.

“I represent more than 2,000 boilermakers in Western Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. My members learned the hard way that the EPA’s goal isn’t clean air; it’s eliminating coal and our way of life’” writes Raymond Ventrone, business manager for Boilermakers Local 154, in a letter to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Since at least 2011, labor unions have been pushing back against the Obama Environmental Protection Agency’s crackdown on carbon-heavy fossil fuels, specifically coal.

“Critics of coal malign the thousands of boilermakers, mine workers and hard-working men and women who earn an honest living in our region from coal. They insult us — calling us polluters and murderers” Ventrone added. “In the last three decades, coal usage has tripled, but pollutants like sulfur dioxide have fallen by 56 percent.”

The Boilermakers previously supported President Obama and are not alone in criticizing him on coal.

Earlier this summer, the United Mine Workers of America blasted the president’s new plan to tackle climate change.

“The climate action plan outlined today by President Obama contains many lofty goals but nothing that speaks to the hardship and suffering his plan would cause to the lives of coal miners, their families and others in the communities where they live,” said WMW president Cecil E. Roberts.

The UMW has long been protesting the administration’s environmental policies, opting not to endorse Obama in the 2012 election after backing him in 2008.

The Boilermakers union has already seen the shuttering of two Pennsylvania coal plants, and coal industry estimates say that 22 coal-fired generators will be shut down throughout the state in the coming years.

Recently, FirstEnergy Corp. announced it was closing down two Pennsylvania coal plants because it would have cost the company $275 million to upgrade the facilities to meet new EPA mercury standards.

“If they shut those two plants down, it’s an attack on coal is what it is,” Ventrone previously said at a rally outside of Local 154’s union hall, adding that his members planned to march on Washington, DC in the coming months.

However, the Obama administration denies waging  a “war on coal.”

The president “expects fossil fuels, and coal specifically, to remain a significant contributor for some time,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told Reuters. It is “all about having, in fact, coal as part of that future. I don’t believe it is a ‘war on coal.’”

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