The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 31, 2013

Fair fight

The Register-Herald

— Critics of the Obama administration’s war on coal took the fight to Washington on Tuesday with miners, energy workers, state and federal officials and supporters of energy independence rallying against U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

For years now in southern West Virginia, many of us have questioned the administration’s rationale for using the regulatory process to attack coal, bypassing the legislative process where at least we’d have the chance to debate.

But the administration, perhaps attempting to shore up the support of the environmental wing of the Democratic Party prior to mid-term elections in 2014, has decided not to play fair.

We understand that politics, as they say, ain’t bean-bag. And politicians and bureaucrats play to win.

But for decades we’ve also heard Democrats and Republicans moaning about the fact that U.S. foreign policy was distorted because we were so dependent on oil from the Middle East. They told us that, if only the United States would become less dependent on outside energy sources, and produce more oil, gas and coal here at home, we’d have better diplomatic options.

Thanks to new technology, some estimates have the United States becoming a net energy exporter as early as 2025. That’s primarily the result of improvements in extracting oil and gas from shale. But other technological advances have made coal a cleaner energy source as well, and we think coal has a role to play in the drive toward national energy independence.

But coal isn’t going to get a chance when new EPA regulations that insist on carbon capture and storage make the cost of a new coal-fired power plant in the $6 billion range, instead of the $1.5 billion range. That regulatory fiat makes electricity powered by coal not very profitable.

All we asked is to let us make our case.

So the federal government listened, and decided to hold public hearings so our voices can be heard … in Atlanta, Boston and San Francisco.

“We believe in a fair fight,” Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) said Tuesday. “But not this EPA.”

Rahall continued:

“You want to have a fight about beans, go to Boston. Want to fight about sour-dough bread, go to San Francisco. But you want to have a fight about coal, you come over to coal country.”

And we’re sure that every longwall-machine operator in Boston will be waiting for a chance to tell the EPA just how wrong it is on the subject of coal.

And in San Francisco, in the spirit of coal miners everywhere, we expect each and every rock-dust machine operator in the city to attend the hearing and make a plea that coal is part of our energy future.

Well, we told you we were optimistic.