Obama Offers Welfare To Miners Out Of Work From EPA Regs


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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Thousands of coal miners and coal-fired power plant workers have been laid off since President Obama took office, in part due to federal regulations. Now Obama is atoning for putting these Americans out of work by them $35 million in welfare grants.

The Obama administration is happy to announce $35 million in grants to help “communities and workers successfully adapt to changes in the coal industry and power sector.” The so-called “Power+Plan” is being spearheaded by the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Agency.

President Obama’s 2016 budget proposal asked for $55 million to go towards the Power+Plan that would “diversify” local economies across Appalachia so they become less reliant on coal demand. A collection of federal agencies will fund such economic diversification throughout the region as federal regulations aim to phase out coal-fired power.

“Recent changes in the energy economy have had a profound impact on Appalachian families and communities that have been sustained by the coal industry for generations,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez said while in Kentucky. “We have a moral imperative to work together to ensure we all succeed.”

Kentucky has been one of the hardest hit states when it comes to federal regulations. EPA regulations are forcing coal-fired power plants to prematurely retire, and are encouraging power companies to forgo building coal plants in favor of natural gas-fired plants.

Regulatory and economic forces, from relatively cheap natural gas, have taken a toll on Kentucky. The Bluegrass State lost 644 power plant jobs from 2008 to 2013  — a 37 percent reduction in its power plant workforce.

Kentucky coal miners have been hit even harder, losing 5,188 jobs during that time — a 31 percent reduction in the state’s coal mine workforce. Many of these mine and power plant closings have been blamed on EPA regulations.

“Kentucky’s coal miners, their families and those working in coal-related jobs continue to suffer under this Administration’s War on Coal and its burdensome regulations, the result of which has been the loss of thousands of high-wage jobs in a region facing serious economic challenges,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, got $7.5 million from the Labor Department earlier this year to fund job training for coal industry workers who lost their jobs. Officials claim that such job training funding has helped some 1,100 former coal miners find new jobs.

“This funding will help … provide essential reemployment services – including for emerging information technology jobs – to approximately 700 Kentuckians who have lost jobs or businesses as a result of the decline in the coal industry,” McConnell said.

In total, coal mines shed 3,702 jobs nationally and power plants shed 39,684 jobs during roughly Obama’s first term in the White House (from 2008 to 2013), according to the center-right American Action Forum (AAF). Some estimates claim pending EPA carbon dioxide regulations could eliminate as many as 80,000 jobs from the coal-related industries by 2030 , but as many as 300,000 jobs from the broader U.S. economy could be eliminated as well.

EPA regulations limiting CO2 emissions from power plants are set to be finalized in the next couple months. The rules have been sent to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget for review where they could sit for 60 days before being sent back to the EPA and becoming law.

But Republican lawmakers have a bill to derail the pending power plan rules before they become law. Pro-coal senators introduced legislation to repeal the EPA’s rule and set a higher bar for future agency attempts to regulate CO2.

“The Affordable Reliable Energy Now Act enables us to fight back against the assault on coal, and the broader threat to affordable, reliable energy nationwide,” West Virginia Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement.

“I am proud to lead the charge against the ‘Clean Power Plan’s’ sweeping regulations and look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to move this very important legislation forward,” Capito said.

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