U.S. Rep. Phil Roe
KINGSPORT — At the 34th annual Eastern Coal Council conference, two Republican speakers laid the blame Monday on President Barack Obama’s administration for being anti-coal.
“The energy policy of this administration is A-B-C — anything but coal,” U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., told coal operators and contractors attending the conference held at the MeadowView Marriott.
U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., recalled walking down the street at a local festival in a coal-friendly county and people yelling: “Tell the president to stop shuttering the coal business. Tell the president we want jobs...Tell him you can’t replace coal with windmills.”
The conference’s forward-looking theme was: “Positioning the Coal Industry For the Future.”
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (USEIA) points out coal has been hit hard by low natural gas prices and domestic coal-fired electricity capacity being retired by increasing generation from renewable energy sources.
But USEIA also sees a coal production comeback after 2016 because of exports.
“There’s no doubt we’ve faced significant challenges as an industry over the last four years,” said Jack Richardson, ECC chairman and vice president of Central
Appalachian operations for Consol Energy. “Our industry has been at the epicenter in terms of an assault on domestic energy and fossil fuels. This situation has been compounded by a slow economic recovery both at home and abroad...Our industry is at a crossroads. There is a bright future for coal, but we must push forward with the evolution of a safety culture if we wish to push forward with that future.
“There is a large demand for energy around the world, and make no mistake, we produce the stuff the world wants and needs...The projections are coal will supplant oil in this decade as the primary global energy source. Demand for energy in China, India and Asia will continue to grow in coming years...The export market paints a very different picture.”
Capito, however, said she didn’t expect relations between the coal industry and the Obama administration to get any better.
In his last State of the Union speech, Obama pledged to pursue climate change measures with or without Congressional help.
“You do have friends on Capitol Hill, although I’m sure you’re wondering what friends you do have,” Capito, who is running to replace retiring West Virginia Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller, told conference attendees. “...There is a future. We just need to keep our heads down and keep moving forward.”
But Capito said the coal industry should expect to “get the same conclusions” from Gina McCarthy, the Obama administration’s nominee to run the Environmental Protection Agency, as it did from former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.
“I asked (Jackson) if she ever looked at jobs impact (when considering EPA regulations)...She said ‘That’s not my job,’” Capito said.
Virginia State Sen. Phillip Puckett, D-Tazewell, noted Dominion’s 600-megawatt Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center, which uses coal, has exceeded state environmental standards.
“I didn’t think the (state) air board would give it a permit,” Puckett said of the facility, which began operating last summer.
U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., sent his regional director, Laura Blevins, to read a letter at the conference pointing out that coal has a $2.5 billion impact and employs 10,000 people in Southwest Virginia.
Kelley Goes, state director for U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., stressed a war against coal is contrary to national interests.
“The people who mine coal are the bravest and most innovative people I’ve ever met,” Goes said.
For more about ECC go to www.easterncoalcouncil.net.