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Manchin: Obama is beating the ‘living crap’ out of coal country

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin exploded over the Obama administration’s anti-coal policies Tuesday.

“We’re getting the living crap beaten out of us,” Manchin said during a Senate hearing with President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the country’s top energy regulator. “There has been nothing more beat up than coal.”

Manchin voiced his frustrations with rules put forward by Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency which have made it more costly and difficult for coal plants and coal mines to operate.

“They just beat the living daylights out of little West Virginia, but they sure like what we produce,” Manchin added. “We could do it a lot better if we had a government working with us as a partner.”

Manchin’s remarks were made while questioning Ron Binz, Obama’s nominee to head up the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulates electric grids, gas pipelines, natural gas export terminals and hydroelectric power plants.

Binz’s nomination has been hotly contested by Republicans and conservative groups who argue that he used his post as lead utilities regulator in Colorado to push an activist agenda, rather than acting as an unbiased regulator.

Environmental groups and Democrats have backed Binz’s confirmation. Environmentalists have even hired a PR firm, VennSquared Communications, to back Binz’s bid to become FERC chairman.

“Ron Binz has the experience and vision needed to help America ramp up the transition to clean energy sources, including solar,” added Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Binz has been criticized by conservatives for his role in shuttering six coal plants in Colorado order to convert them to natural gas and for pushing through an expensive renewable energy law. Coal supporters in West Virginia — a major coal-producing state — see this as another way for the Obama administration to wage its so-called “war on coal.”

“West Virginia families are already hurting because of President Obama’s policies and allowing him to hammer through the appointment of yet another person with a proven anti-coal record could have a calamitous effect,” writes Conrad Lucas in the Charleston Daily Mail. “Let’s hope Sen. Manchin has the courage to vote against an enemy of coal, as our Republican leaders in West Virginia have done when called to defend our jobs.”

Manchin told Binz that utilities operators have voiced their concerns that uncertainty over EPA regulations have made it more cost-effective for them to shutter existing coal plants rather than updating them.

The Obama administration is slated to release new rules regarding coal plant emissions at the end of this week. The rules are expected to essentially ban the construction of new coal-fired power plants unless they use carbon capture and storage technology.

Manchin also said that coal retirements are imperiling the country’s ability to power itself.

“If our economy ever came back… we’d be hurting,” Manchin said.

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