Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said coal-dependent communities were going to struggle regardless of the Obama administration's power plant regulations, and that the White House is working to smooth a transition away from the fuel source.

McCarthy defended an EPA proposal to slash power-sector carbon emissions 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. She said economic factors — such as competitive prices from natural gas and coal seams that are becoming more expensive and difficult to mine — already were edging coal out of the electricity mix, bringing hardship to communities dependent on coal.

"The coal industry has been in some difficulty regardless of whether this rule moves forward," she said Friday at Georgetown University. "Coal as a fuel source for power plants is really not competitive in most of the United States."

The federal government has offered some grants for job retraining programs in communities heavily reliant on the coal industry. McCarthy said the White House has appointed a liaison to coordinate transition efforts in such places.

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