The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest News

September 28, 2013

'Coal Caucus' formed to oppose new strict federal emission limits on coal plants

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Republican Pennsylvania Congressman Tom Marino and a bipartisan group of state lawmakers have formed a “Coal Caucus” to oppose new strict federal emission limits on coal plants in Pennsylvania and other states.

Marino, who represents the 10th congressional district in northeast Pennsylvania, said President Obama is waging a war on coal that’s creating economic hardship in coal-producing states.

“The Obama administration’s proposed rule to cap carbon emissions from new power plants is just another line of attack to make certain energy sources — sources like coal and fossil fuels — so expensive that the producers themselves go bankrupt,” said Marino.  

More than a dozen Pennsylvania lawmakers from both major political parties joined the congressman in railing against the new federal regulations, with Republicans blaming Democrats and Democrats focusing their concern on Washington.

Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Lycoming  County, was named chairman of the Coal Caucus. Along with Obama, he added Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a Democrat, to the list of villains.

Yaw said 12 attorneys general from other states signed a letter arguing that the new EPA carbon dioxide air quality standards overstepped the agency’s authority.

“By doing nothing,” he said, “the attorney general in Pennsylvania has made Pennsylvania an unwitting participant in the war on coal.”

Joe Peters, a spokesman for Kane, said she had not been approached by other attorneys general about a position paper on the EPA rule. But, Peters added, Kane is now monitoring the situation.

More than 40,000 people currently work in the coal industry in Pennsylvania, according to the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance. Phil Smith, a spokesman for the United Mine Workers of America, said tougher clean air standards approved during President George H.W. Bush’s administration during the early 1990s resulted in the loss of 20,000 to 25,000 jobs in two years.

Smith said China and other emerging industrial nations are expanding their use of coal at a time the United States is restricting fossil fuels to generate electricity, causing the export of jobs.

“We’re leading with our chin instead of our brain,” said Smith. “The fact is people around the world don’t view coal as the fuel of the past; they are accelerating their use.”

Democratic state lawmakers who joined the Coal Caucus freely criticized the EPA’s new rules capping the amount of carbon dioxide coal-burning power plants can emit, but shied away from taking aim at Kane.

“I can’t speak for the attorney general,” said Sen. John Wozniak, D-Cambria County.

Wozniak said the EPA needs to soften its position, calling the rules, “unnecessarily harsh.”

Earlier this summer, FirstEnergy announced plans to shut down two coal plants in Fayette and Washington counties because of the cost of adding pollution controls to meet the federal standards. The plants generate enough energy to power tens of thousands of homes and business, and employ 380 people.

Pennsylvania has 39 coal-fired power plants. They produce 55 percent of the state’s energy needs, state officials said. Utility companies are replacing coal with natural gas plants, which now produce only 5 percent of the state’s energy, as they adjust to new clear air standards.

Natural gases gains are particularly strong in the area in and around the Marcellus shale region in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Three coal-fired power plants — in Shamokin Dam (Snyder County), New Castle (Lawrence County) and Monaca (Beaver County) — are in the process of converting from coal to natural gas power, government records show.

In addition, the Department of Environmental Protection has received air quality plans for seven new natural gas plants. Four other natural gas power plant projects have been announced, but company officials have not submitted required paperwork yet, according to the records.

The Sunbury Generation facility in Shamokin Dam is one of the oldest coal-fired plants in the country. Now the company that owns it is working to convert the plant to natural gas by 2015. That means the plant will continue to operate, albeit with fewer workers.

Federal environmental studies have identified fossil-fuel power plants as the leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the country, with coal producing more carbon dioxide than any other fuel.

EPA officials contend the only way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide spewing into the air.

1
Text Only
Latest News
  • W.Va. AG warns job seekers of fake job ad scams

    Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is warning West Virginians about fake job postings and other employment scams online.

    July 22, 2014

  • Ex-state agency worker pleads guilty to fraud

    A former case worker for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources is facing up to 30 years in prison and a $500,000 fine after pleading guilty to fraud.

    July 22, 2014

  • Saints 1 Greenbrier ready for Saints

    The goal posts are up. The lines are on the field. The closets are stocked with Gatorade and the pads and helmets are hanging in the lockers. INCLUDES TOUT VIDEO.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • Auto Fair winner Auto Fair attracts 15,000 visitors despite cool weather

    Although Mother Nature fast-forwarded to September temperatures throughout the weekend of the Friends of Coal Auto Fair, thousands of people came out to see the show and support the YMCA of Southern West Virginia.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • W.Va. health officials find clinic reused its needles

    Health officials on Monday advised patients of a West Virginia pain management clinic to be tested for blood-borne infectious diseases after an investigation found that needles had been reused.

    July 22, 2014

  • TWV raises $1,700 for Just For Kids

    Theatre West Virginia provides the southern part of the Mountain State an opportunity to see live, outdoor dramas, but this year, it’s giving back even more.

    July 22, 2014

  • WVDA expanding Hemlock Woolly Adelgid program

    Commissioner of Agriculture Walt Helmick has announced that the West Virginia Department of Agriculture's (WVDA) Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) Program has expanded to include all counties currently infested with HWA.

    July 21, 2014

  • Two in custody after allegedly beating Whitesville man

    Two men remained in Southern Regional Jail Monday morning after they allegedly beat up another man in his home in Whitesville. The West Virginia State Police would not release the name of the victim, who came to Raleigh General Hospital on his own.

    July 21, 2014

  • Impersonating an officer

    More details emerged Sunday from the Mercer County Sheriff Department’s investigation into a male subject who used a blue, bubble-style dash light to initiate a traffic stop of a female driver Friday night on Route 20 near Athens.

    July 21, 2014

  • 'Ghost murals' being restored across Appalachia

    Coca-Cola Consolidated is working across Appalachia to restore “ghost murals.”

    July 21, 2014