EPA to hold coal plant hearings nowhere near coal country

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The Environmental Protection Agency has announced the locations where it will be holding hearings on its pending regulations on coal-fired power plants — nowhere near coal country.

The EPA will hold eleven hearings across the country in the coming months to discuss the agency’s upcoming carbon emissions limits for existing power plants.

However, virtually all of the hearings are happening far from major coal producing regions. The hearings will take place at EPA regional headquarters in major cities outside of top coal-producing states.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused the Obama administration of “once again showing its contempt for Kentucky’s coal miners and their families.”

The EPA will hold hearings in Atlanta, Georgia; Boston, Massachusetts; Chicago, Illinois; Dallas, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Lenexa, Kansas; New York, New York; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Seattle, Washington; Washington, D.C.

There will be no regional meetings in the top three coal-producing states — Wyoming, West Virginia and Kentucky. Regional meetings will occur in Pennsylvania and Illinois, the next two largest coal producers, but the meetings will be far from the coal mines.

According to Google Maps, the EPA’s Illinois headquarters is more than 300 miles away from the state’s two largest coal mines — which together produced about 12 million short tons of coal in 2011.

The EPA’s Pennsylvania headquarters is more than 330 miles from the largest coal mines, located in the western part of the state. Pennsylvania produced about 55 million short tons of coal in 2012, or 5 percent of the country’s total coal production.

“Instead of the EPA holding a coal hearing in the heart of Coal Country, Kentucky, he has chosen locations such as San Francisco and Washington, D.C.,” McConnell added. “I urge President Obama and the EPA to come to Kentucky, speak directly to those most impacted by the EPA’s regulations and get a first-hand view on how the economy is being brutalized by the Administration’s War on Coal.”

McConnell is seeking re-election as senator in Kentucky next year.

The EPA did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment on the decision not to hold hearing near coal producers.

The agency’s emissions limits for existing power plants have already attracted legal challenges from state governments. Seventeen states, led by Nebraska, are poised to challenge the EPA’s emissions caps for existing coal plants, arguing that the such rules are outside of the agency’s Clean Air Act authority.

“EPA, if unchecked, will continue to implement regulations which far exceed its statutory authority to the detriment of the States, in whom Congress has vested authority under the Clean Air Act, and whose citizenry and industries will ultimately pay the price of these costly and ineffective regulations,” wrote 17 state attorneys general and one top state environmental regulator in a white paper.

The coalition of states is also worried about the economic costs of banning coal as a source of fuel in the country.

“The elimination of coal as a fuel for new electric generation would have highly concerning implications for electricity prices and for the economy and job-creation in general, as well as the competitiveness of American manufacturing,” the states argue.

The EPA can act on its own when setting standards for new coal plants, but must work with the states when looking to reduce emissions from existing plants — which is a costly affair.

The Clean Air Act “directs EPA to establish guidelines, which states use to design their own programs to reduce emissions,” according to the EPA. “Before proposing guidelines, EPA must consider how power plants with a variety of different configurations would be able to reduce carbon pollution in a cost-effective way.”

Republicans and coal country Democrats are already pushing hard against regulations that would force states to limit emissions from currently operating power plants.

“The Obama Administration continues to unilaterally bypass the role of the states, while stifling job creation by eliminating affordable energy through new regulations that will only be another blow to our fragile economy,”said Kentucky Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield.

“The most frustrating part is the Administration is doing this with no public debate, and many in the United States Congress and individual states have been expressing deep concern about the impact that this will have on our ability to remain competitive in the global marketplace.”

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