Jessica Lilly Published

Groups Prep for EPA Clean Power Plan Hearing

Coal Stock Pile

Given the political climate around the EPA’s proposal, it seems unlikely that state lawmakers would have a policy without coal. Still, the United Mine Workers of America says workers and their families should be concerned about this new regulation. Groups from West Virginia and across Appalachia are gearing up to show support and protest of the EPA’s proposed rule.

Groups like the United Mine Workers of America and Coal River Mt. Watch are traveling to Pittsburgh later this week.

As it stands, the EPA rule would let states come up with their own energy policy on how to decrease carbon dioxide emissions. Given the political climate, some environmentalists worry it will be business as usual for the coal industry leaving little room for renewable energy. After all, lawmakers in states like West Virginia and Kentucky aggressively and consistently favor coal in speech and policy.

“We need to make it clear that the EPA does have the authority and the mandate ad the moral obligation to reign in CO2 emissions,” Haltom said.

Vernon Haltom, the executive director of Coal River Mountain Watch, even criticizes the agency meant to help protect the environment, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and other state agencies.

Groups Question W.Va.’s Environmental Reputation

Haltom points to two suits. One in which, Marfork Coal, a former Massey subsidiary and current Alpha Company, violated water pollution limits at the Brushy Fork Impoundment. The company  had submitted reports to the state DEP that showed high selenium levels and violations of water quality standards at the coal slurry impoundment, according to group’s website.

In March of this year, Alpha Natural Resource agreed to spend an estimated $200 million on implementing system-wide upgrades to reduce discharges of pollution from coal mines in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia for violating the Clean Water Act. The settlement involved more than 6,200 permits.

Coal: Easy Target

Phil Smith with the United Mine Workers of America says miners and their families should still be concerned. Smith says even if policy of coal dependent states keeps coal as king, it becomes an easy target for the rest of the country.

Environmentalists aren’t completely satisfied with the rule either. Haltom wants to see a policy with 100% renewable energy.

But where will those renewable jobs be created? Phil Smith and the UMWA says it won’t be enough for the areas that need it the most like the coalfields.

But let’s not lose sight of the BIG global picture. The new rule is meant to reduce carbon dioxide in order to slow climate change. Smith says the UMWA doesn’t argue the science behind climate change and agrees that something should be done, just not this new rule.  

Coal jobs have been declining in recent years and studies show that several things are contributing … like the amount of coal left, the location of the coal, competition like natural gas along with regulatory costs.  

Hearings begin today in four cities across the country. The EPA will host meetings in Atlanta Locations for the hearings include Atlanta, Denver, Washington, DC and Pittsburgh.