Mine union boss: Coal industry could suffer same fate as bin Laden

The coal industry will suffer the same fate as Osama bin Laden under new climate regulations proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency, the head of the United Mine Workers of America said this week.

“The Navy SEALs shot Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan and Lisa Jackson shot us in Washington,” Cecil Roberts, president of the powerful union, said during an interview Tuesday on the West Virginia radio show MetroNews Talkline.

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Roberts blasted Jackson, the EPA administrator, over the proposed regulations, which would limit greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants. Opponents of the regulations, including Roberts, say the new rules would be the death knell of the coal industry.

New coal-fired power plants would have to install technology to capture carbon dioxide emissions in order to comply with the rules. The technology, known as carbon capture and storage (CCS), “is not commercially available,” Roberts said.

“This rule is an all-out, in my opinion, decision by the EPA that we’re never going to have another coal-fired facility in the United States that’s constructed,” Roberts said.

The union chief used colorful language to underscore his point.


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“I noticed this past week the vice president was talking about the campaign and he mentioned that Osama Bin Laden was dead and General Motors was alive,” Roberts said. “He should have gone on to say that the coal industry is not far behind with respect to what happened with Osama Bin Laden.”

While the United Mine Workers of America likely won’t actively oppose President Obama’s reelection bid, Roberts said the new EPA regulation could prevent the union from endorsing the president.

“That’s something that we have not done yet and may not do because of this very reason. Our people’s jobs are on the line,” Roberts said, adding that Obama has “done a lot of great things for the country.”

Roberts's comments underscore the vehement opposition to the new EPA regulations in coal states whose economies rely heavily on the fossil fuel.

The rules would require new power plants that burn fossil fuels to release no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt‐hour.

The agency said new natural-gas plants will be able to meet the standard without adding any additional technology. But new coal plants would need to add new technology like CCS, in which carbon dioxide emissions are collected and sequestered in the ground rather than released into the atmosphere.

The rules give new coal-fired power plants flexibility to meet the standard. Instead of meeting the standard on an annual basis, new coal plants that install CCS can use a 30-year average of their carbon dioxide emissions, according to EPA.

The proposed standards come as plans to build new coal plants have been waylaid by competition from inexpensive natural gas — which is undergoing a production boom — and other factors.

Environmental groups have cheered the regulations, with Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune noting that they will “make it nearly impossible to build a new coal plant.”

Roberts, in Tuesday’s interview with host Hoppy Kercheval, took aim at the Sierra Club, arguing the environmental group’s campaign to shut down coal plants is killing jobs.

“This is a broader problem for me than it is for the Sierra Club or the EPA,” Roberts said. “And I’m convinced, Hoppy, that if you give the Sierra Club enough money, they could shut your job down. I don’t know how they’d do it, but they’d figure out a way.”

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