GOP hammers Obama on election promise to bankrupt coal industry

Republicans were looking to build support for the Stop the War on Coal Act, H.R. 3409, which will come up for a vote on Friday. To back up the claim that there is a war on coal, Rogers and others noted that while campaigning in 2008, Obama said, "So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can, it's just that it will bankrupt them because they're going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that's being emitted."

"It was the President, when he was a candidate, that said that his policies, if enacted, would cost coal jobs," Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said. "For nearly four years, we have seen evidence of that. The latest example of that was when Alpha Coal Company laid off 1,200 people, citing the regulations that the President said he would promulgate."

Democrats rejected the idea that there is a war on coal, and said coal is being used less because other energy alternatives are less expensive.

"The only war coal is losing is in the free market, to natural gas, to wind and to solar," Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said. "Just four years ago, coal generated 51 percent of the electricity in the United States. Now it is down to 35 percent."

Democrats also charged that the bill is just one in a long line of anti-environmental bills that Republicans have pursued in the 112th Congress.

"This is the single worst anti-environment bill to be considered during the most anti-environment House of Representatives in history," House Energy and Commerce ranking member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said.

"Since 1970, when Richard Nixon was the President of the United States, the U.S. has had a national policy that air should be safe enough for people to breathe," Waxman added. "The Republican bill that we're considering today would overturn this policy and cut the heart out of the CleanAir Act by allowing air quality standards to be set on the basis of polluter profits rather than health."

But one Democrat said he supports the bill.

"I've been proud to stand in this body for over three decades, to stand in the trenches and fight with our coal miners, and I'm not about to break with them one iota," Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) said.

Among other things, the bill would block the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, prevent rules on the storage and disposal of coal ash and limit Clean Water Act rules.

The House began considering amendments to the bill on Thursday evening, but votes on the amendments and on the bill are expected on Friday.

More in House

GOP lawmaker seeks ban on fetal tissue sales

Read more »