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Sessions: EPA’s ‘war on coal’ hurts workers

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions says the Obama administration’s new carbon emissions caps for power plants will hurt workers as much as the coal industry.

“At a time when we should be focused on helping American workers, making America more competitive in the global economy, and solving our debt crisis, this Administration is focused on restricting American energy sources and driving up prices,” Sessions said in a statement.

The Environmental Protection Agency rolled out its proposal to cut carbon emissions from power plants by effectively banning the construction of new coal-fired power plants unless they use unproven carbon capture and storage technology.

“[T]his EPA action will have no real impact on the earth’s temperature — something EPA Administrator McCarthy has even conceded — but will absolutely drive up the cost of electricity for Americans,” Sessions added. “This means lower wages and lost jobs.”

While unions overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama during his last two presidential campaigns, unions that rely on the coal industry have been critical of his policies.

“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” writes Raymond Ventrone, business manager for Boilermakers Local 154, in a letter to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“[I]t appears that they have become so consumed with their narrow effort to kill coal in America that they’ve lost sight of what it will really take to rein in the world’s CO2 emissions,” writes Newton B. Jones, president of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers. “Unilaterally shutting down a large percentage of America’s coal-fired systems, as is currently underway due largely to EPA regulations, will have significant collateral cost to many jobs and businesses at essentially no gain in our climate change battle.”

“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 United Mine Workers president Cecil E. Roberts.

The UMW opted not to endorse Obama during the 2012 election after backing him in 2008.

Coal miners have been hit especially hard as market forces and EPA regulations cause mines to close.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that “[s]ince mid-2011, Eastern Kentucky has lost more than 5,700 coal jobs, or nearly 42 percent, while the decline in Western Kentucky has been 105 jobs, or 2.3 percent, according to the report.”

The Desert Sun reports that “a total of 151 coal mines were idled in the first half of 2013. This included 15 mines in the first quarter, 77 mines idled in the second quarter, and 59 mines already shutting their shafts near the end of the third quarter.”

More recently, the James River Coal company announced that it was closing several mines in eastern Kentucky and laying off 525 employees. Republicans blamed these layoffs on EPA regulations.

“The president’s war-on-coal agenda is killing Kentucky jobs, as is evident from the closing of these mines in Eastern Kentucky,” said Moira Bagley, spokeswoman for Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul. “The onerous EPA regulations on the coal industry are cutting off the lifeblood of thousands of Kentucky families.”

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