Published September 19, 2012
At this point, you’d have to be blind not to see President Obama’s war on coal, and the devastating impact it is already having on coal mining communities and will, sooner rather than later, have on everyone who pays an electric bill. Does this administration care at all about saving American jobs? The latest announcement came from Alpha Natural Resources, which is laying off 1,200 coal miners, citing “a regulatory environment that’s aggressively aimed at constraining the use of coal.”
We shouldn’t be surprised by what’s happening. Obama told us his disastrous plan for the coal industry and affordable electricity on the campaign trail in 2008. “If someone wants to build a new coal-fired power plant they can, but it will bankrupt them,” candidate Obama said then. “Electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket,” he added.
First he tried a massive cap-and-trade plan. It failed. The day after the 2010 landslide election, he said: “Cap-and-trade was just one way of skinning the cat.” Now he's abusing regulatory power to accomplish the same deeply destructive goal of bankrupting coal.
We’ve already seen mercury rules from the EPA that will impose tens of billions of dollars in retrofit costs for coal plants, heavy-handed denials of clean water permits to block mining operations, and even an illegal attempt to veto an already approved permit to block a West Virginia mine – that one was overturned by a judge who accused the EPA of “magical thinking.” A cross-state air pollution rule designed to cripple coal was also at least temporarily blocked by the courts, but with dozens of draconian rules there is plenty of redundancy.
Worst of all is the power plant greenhouse gas rule, designed to transform Obama’s failed cap-and-trade scheme into the law of the land by distorted and contorted the 1970 Clean Air Act. As EPA regional administrator Curt Spalding let slip, the rule says that “basically gas plants are the performance standard, which means if you want to build a coal plant, you got a big problem.”
Spalding went on to praise his boss Lisa Jackson, the national EPA administrator for the decision to destroy coal, saying: “You can’t imagine how tough that was. Because you’ve got to remember if you go to West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and all those places, you have coal communities who depend on coal.”
The strongest words of anger against this regulatory destruction of the coal industry came not from an industry voice but from organized labor. Cecil Roberts, the president of the United Mine Workers, said: “The Navy SEALs shot Usama Bin Laden in Pakistan and Lisa Jackson shot us in Washington. This rule is an all-out, in my opinion, decision by the EPA that we’re never going to have another coal-fired facility in the United States that’s constructed.”
Worse than that, the rule will create a legal predicate under which the Sierra Club can sue to shut down all existing coal plants, which you can be certain they will do. That will make good on Obama’s campaign promise to make electricity rates “necessarily skyrocket.”
The House is expected to vote Friday on stopping Obama’s War on Coal. I’ve got a form set up at www.WarOnCoal.com where you can urge them to do so. But the future of coal and affordable electricity will most likely depend on defeating Barack Obama at the ballot box.
Mr. Kerpen is the president of American Commitment and the author of Democracy Denied.