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Pennsylvania Dems clash with Obama over stifling coal regulations

By: Michael Bastasch |

Even Democratic state legislators have been expressing their frustration with the Obama administration’s environmental agenda, especially as it relates to coal.

“I understand the economics behind the decision to close the plants,” said Democratic state Rep. Pam Snyder. “What I question are the regulatory policies that fail to atone for the damaging effects it has on the economic survival of regions that have given their life bloods to power the nation.”

“The federal government is costing real people real jobs by pushing ahead with theoretical power-plant standards,” said Democratic state Sen. Tim Solobay. “Forcing the closure of reliable power plants will drive up the price of electricity for consumers and do little to improve the environment.”

Earlier this month, FirstEnergy announced that it was shuttering two coal-fired power plants in Pennsylvania, citing federal environmental regulations and poor economic conditions. The company said that complying with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury Air Toxics Standards, or MATS, would have cost $275 million for the two plants.

Since President Obama took office in 2009, 15,000 megawatts of coal-fired power has been taken offline.

“I will never accept the reasoning that a low-cost, abundant resource like coal does not have a cornerstone in our energy foundation,” said Snyder. “The coal and power industry has made great strides addressing environmental concerns, and ‘clean coal’ technologies have never been given more than lip service.”

“For years, public officials in this region have asked federal regulators to consider the economic impact of their overreaching new regulations,” Solobay added. “The benefit to the air quality in the northeast United States is questionable, but the effect on families in Southwestern Pennsylvania is real. It is not a balanced approach.”

The coal industry is up for rough times ahead. Reuters reports that more than 37,000 megawatts of coal-fired power will be shut down over the next decade or so.

“We’re going to do everything we can to protect these good jobs and support the families affected by shut-down proposal,” Solobay said. “It might be a long shot, but we’re not going to let the federal government just roll over these workers.”

The EPA has also announced it will be issuing new carbon dioxide emissions limits for coal-fired power plants and natural gas-fired power plants in the fall, which coal supporters say could cripple the industry.

“The EPA made a difficult situation impossible,” Solobay said. “Coal was already facing cheaper energy competition and seeing its share of the energy market decline, but losing it from our energy portfolio seems risky and premature. The hot weather we’re going through right now should be warning enough to keep a reliablesource of electricity available.”