The James River Coal company announced Tuesday it is closing several mines in eastern Kentucky and laying off 525 employees. Republicans say the Environmental Protection Agency is to blame.
“It is a downright dire and disastrous situation in Martin, Pike, Letcher and our surrounding coal counties, yet the president is taking credit for a recovery!” Kentucky Republican Rep. Hal Rogers told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Deliberate anti-coal energy policies are sending thousands of families in my region to the unemployment line. I’ve talked to out of work miners struggling to put food on the table, find replacement work, and pay their bills.”
“Over 500 Kentuckians are now wondering how they’re going to feed their family and pay their bills, as a result of another shutdown at Kentucky coal mines,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, another Kentucky Republican. “The President is leading a war on coal and what that really means for Kentucky families is a war on jobs.
James River Coal announced that it will be shuttering mines in eastern Kentucky due to “continued weakness in the domestic and international coal markets.” Mines in eastern Kentucky have been hit particularly hard by EPA regulations as well as increased competition from low priced natural gas — a fuel that is quickly replacing coal for electricity generation.
“There is no other way to say it; in two years, President Obama’s ‘War on Coal’ has resulted in 6,200 jobless Americans in the eastern Kentucky coal fields and untold thousands more in mining support businesses,” Rogers told TheDCNF.
The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet (KEEC) reported that coal mining jobs reached their lowest point in nearly a century.
“Kentucky coal mines reduced on-site employment by 851 workers, or 6.5 percent, during the second quarter of 2013. As of July 2013, an estimated 12,342 persons are employed at Kentucky coal mines –the lowest level recorded since the Commonwealth began keeping mining employment statistics in 1927,” reported KEEC.
The EPA is set to unveil carbon dioxide emissions limits for new power plants this week, which are expected to ban the construction of new coal-fired power plants unless they use carbon capture and storage technology — which the coal industry says are not commercially available.
“The president’s war-on-coal agenda is killing Kentucky jobs, as is evident from the closing of these mines in Eastern Kentucky,” Moira Bagley, spokeswoman for Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, told TheDCNF. “The onerous EPA regulations on the coal industry are cutting off the lifeblood of thousands of Kentucky families.”
However, the Obama administration has consistently denied waging a war on coal. President Obama’s climate action plan also includes $8 billion in loan guarantees to “green” fossil fuels, including funding for carbon capture and store technology.
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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