EPA deprives the nation of affordable, reliable power from coal

This month, President Obama will deliver his State of the Union address, charting a course for the country and outlining key successes and future initiatives. 

Given the sluggish economy and persistent unemployment, most Americans will be hoping to hear a plan to make 2014 better than the year before. Unfortunately, the climate change plan that the president unveiled last year will only make things worse for American families. Bolstered by a vocal, radical environmental movement, the president has mobilized his entire administration to support new greenhouse gas regulations and a multitude of other initiatives that would prevent the use of coal-based electricity and hinder the development of clean coal technologies. 

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During his speech, Obama will likely discuss the need for job creation, income equality, and economic growth. Contrary to his rhetoric, however, this administration’s regulatory assault on coal-fueled power has accomplished quite the opposite, jeopardizing America’s economic future and crippling the livelihoods of many. 

So as the president speaks to the American people later this month, he should bear in mind that some important questions need to be answered. 

First, why hasn’t this administration consulted a more diverse stakeholder base when crafting its environmental policies? Rather than work with coal communities, the president has shown little appetite for opening any such dialogue, instead choosing to align himself exclusively with those who support his policies, instead of those who have voiced legitimate concerns. New emails, obtained through a FOIA request, confirm this troubling reality—revealing that EPA worked closely behind the scenes with one environmental group to ensure its New Source Performance Standards would make it impossible to build new coal-fueled power plants in the United States. 

Additionally, when EPA embarked on its listening session tour last year to gather public input on its forthcoming carbon standard for existing plants, the agency visited places like San Francisco, New York City, and Boston, while neglecting states that depend on coal for affordable electricity. With so much at stake in this debate, the president must begin a meaningful conversation about America’s energy future with all Americans, especially those who stand to lose the most. 

Second, why isn’t this administration leveling with the American people about the real impacts of its rulemaking? In places like West Virginia, Ohio, and my home state of Kentucky, we have witnessed the devastating impact of these regulations firsthand. Hardworking men and women who have spent their entire lives working in mines and power plants, or operating rail cars and coal-transporting trucks—all in the noble pursuit of providing affordable power for the rest of us—are now out of work and struggling to make ends meet. 

But these regulations impact more than just the coalfields of Appalachia. Actions from Washington, D.C. reverberate in a major way across our economy, touching the lives of all Americans. Manufacturers cannot sustain the engines of productivity without access to affordable and reliable power. Small business owners cannot make hiring decisions when they face unpredictable utility bills each month. Families, especially the most vulnerable, often must sacrifice food on the table in order to keep their lights on and heat running. 

Third, why is this administration jeopardizing America’s global leadership on clean energy? The President stubbornly contends that he is pursuing an “all of the above” energy policy, when it is clear his administration is working hard to exclude coal from our energy portfolio. The regulations put out by the EPA ignore advancements in clean coal technology, supported by the more than $200 billion that the coal industry has and will make to reduce emissions, and help us use America’s most abundant, reliable resource more cleanly and efficiently than ever before. 

The administration’s regulations hamper America’s ability to be competitive, to innovate and to be a clean energy leader, and I am fearful that we will lose ground, and forfeit enormous economic benefits, to countries that have embraced coal as an important resource in their own energy portfolios. 

President Obama has made his environmental crusade a cornerstone issue during his second term in office. If America continues on its current trajectory, however, the legacy of this effort will be lost jobs, increased energy costs, threats to electric reliability, and devastated communities across the country. Taking clean coal out of our energy mix hurts all Americans, especially those most in need. Affordable, reliable power from clean coal keeps America thriving, and it must play a prominent role in our energy policy in 2014—and beyond.

Duncan is president and CEO of American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy.