Dem slams Obama on EPA rules, coal

Rep. Nick RahallNick Joe RahallWe shouldn't allow politics to impede disaster relief Break the cycle of partisanship with infant, child health care programs Clinton mulls role in 2018 midterms MORE (D-W.Va.) said the Obama administration’s policies present the toughest uphill battle for the coal industry in his 36-year congressional career.

That would mean Rahall, who has long advocated for the coal industry, ranks Obama below former Democratic presidents Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonTop Democratic pollster advised Biden campaign to pick Warren as VP How Obama just endorsed Trump Trump, Biden signal how ugly the campaign will be MORE and Jimmy Carter in his handling of the coal industry.

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“All the Appalachian states, we’re in this together,” Rahall told The Hill on Friday. “And as I said last night on the floor, it does appear as if the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] sees a politically expendable region of this country. And you know what that means: They don’t have to worry about it.”

Rahall on Friday joined a GOP-led vote to pass a package of bills that roll back or end EPA rules they say are detrimental to the coal industry.

Democrats have said the bill is misguided, commenting that market forces -- such as the low price of natural gas -- constitute a more significant factor in the coal industry's recent struggles than EPA rules.

Much of the focus surrounding that bill has been that Republicans were sending an election season message, since the legislation likely will not pass the Senate. But Rahall’s vote, and comments about the administration, showed EPA bashing is not just GOP territory.

Rahall scolded the EPA, saying its new “overzealous and overreaching” rules are hurting his constituents.

One of those rules, the mercury air toxics standard, would establish the first-ever limits on mercury and other toxic emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The EPA also has proposed the first-ever greenhouse gas limits on new power plants that use fossil fuels. Carol Browner, Obama’s former energy and climate adviser as well as a former EPA chief, thinks Obama might try imposing greenhouse gas limits on existing plants in a second term.

“This is about coal miners’ jobs, and their benefits, and their families, and their futures, and their dreams, and their aspirations,” Rahall said. “That’s what this is about. And it’s a very uncertain time now in the coal fields.”

Rahall vented further frustration over Obama’s policies, explaining that Democrats from coal districts have struggled to get the president to listen to their concerns.

“It’s a tough nut to crack. All we can do is get the president to mention clean coal in his acceptance speech in Charlotte, which he did mention, to his credit,” Rahall said, referring to the Democratic National Convention in early September. “But it appears it was more as an afterthought than as a part of his platform.”

Obama’s treatment of coal has put some coal-state Democrats in a tough spot. Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinDemocratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight Stakes high for Collins in coronavirus relief standoff The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Surgeon General stresses need to invest much more in public health infrastructure, during and after COVID-19; Fauci hopeful vaccine could be deployed in December MORE (D-W.Va.) would not say Thursday whether he would support Obama for a second term. And the United Mine Workers of America, historically Democratic and a backer of Obama in 2008, has decided not to endorse a presidential candidate this election.