This morning, Alpha Natural Resources, one of the world’s leading producers of coal, announced plans to idle eight mines and lay off 1,200 workers in Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, some as soon as today. It’s another unfortunate chapter in what has been a very difficult few years for the American coal industry.
It is against this grim backdrop that the House of Representatives will take up H.R. 3409, the “Stop the War on Coal Act.” The bill is scheduled for Rules Committee debate Wednesday and the House floor shortly thereafter. H.R. 3409 takes aim at several federal regulations that, if allowed to go forward, would effectively kick the coal industry while it’s down. Regulations like EPA’s recently-proposed greenhouse gas New Source Performance Standards, which effectively ban the construction of new conventional coal-fired power plants. Or the “Utility MACT” regulation, a $10 billion annual hit to the economy that costs 40 percent more than all of EPA’s power plant-sector air regulations combined.
The newest addition to the coal industry’s regulatory overload is the Office of Surface Mining’s “Stream Buffer Zone Rule,” which is expected to cause a 20-30 percent drop in coal production in the Eastern United States and a 50 percent drop in underground mines nationwide, putting at risk more than 20,000 coal mining and related jobs.
Coal is one of the nation’s most abundant energy resources and a vital part of our efforts to meet our energy and transportation needs. Coal generates a significant percentage of our nation’s electricity, and maintaining coal in a diverse national energy portfolio is in the national economic interest. The NAM strongly supports H.R. 3409, which would protect a reliable, affordable and available part of our nation’s energy mix from overregulation.
Ross Eisenberg is vice president of energy and resources policy, National Association of Manufacturers.