By Ron Gregory
PITTSBURGH, Pa. – It was a bipartisan show of support for coal mining in the Appalachian region as local elected officials and others participated in a Rally to Support American Energy in Pittsburgh, Wednesday.
Although partisan rhetoric even enters into the subject of coal mining, it appeared West Virginia officials, coal industry leaders and coal miners themselves were united in opposing tougher regulations by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). While many have expressed concern about Democrat President Barack Obama’s “war on coal,” other Republicans maintained this week that the EPA refused to hold hearings on their new regulations in either Kentucky or West Virginia. Instead, they said on social media, the EPA chose Pennsylvania, recognized as a Northeastern state that is not so dependent on the coal economy.
Nevertheless, busloads of West Virginians made the trip to Pittsburgh, with some boarding chartered buses as early as 4:30 a.m., Wednesday. The EPA scheduled hearings on their proposals for Thursday, also in Pittsburgh.
On Wednesday, however, coal supporters gathered at Pittsburgh’s Highmark Stadium for their rally. The day began with entertainment by Chris Higbee starting at 10 a.m. The arrival of a coal barge came at 10:30. Video remarks were delivered by Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito and Congressman David McKinley of West Virginia, along with other congressional representatives from Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Among those representing the Mountain State were Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, State Senators Ron Stollings of Boone County and Art Kirkendoll of Logan as well as West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Rainey. Coal Association Vice President Chris Hamilton also attended. Prayer was led by Joel Watts of the WV Coal Forum.
Tomblin spoke, along with his counterpart from Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Corbett. Ohio’s Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor also addressed those gathered. Morrisey spoke as well. He is a Republican.
The event concluded with the singing of “God Bless America” by Veronica Buccilli. That came at about 12:45 p.m., when many of those attending from West Virginia left the stadium to return home.
In his remarks, Morrisey pledged to “keep fighting for coal miners in West Virginia and everywhere.”
“I think it is critical that the states of West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania form a united front against the Environmental Protection Agency’s burdensome and illegal proposed regulation on existing power plants,” Morrisey said after the rally. “This shouldn’t be an issue of Democrat versus Republican; all three states are deeply dependent upon coal and the use of coal to power our economy, and not one of the states will emerge from these regulations unscathed. We must ensure that the EPA and the Obama Administration know that we are watching them, and we will fight this illegal regulation in any way we can.” Morrisey has previously joined other attorneys general in filing legal action attempting to slow down new EPA regulations.
“I stand here together with you united in our outrage over the Obama administration’s plans to use the Environmental Protection Agency to put you and our nation at risk. This plan, which seeks to cut emissions from existing power plants, could wreak havoc on our nation’s economy and be devastating for many of the people here today. Not only will energy jobs be put in jeopardy, but power plants may close or have to go through huge renovations in order to be compliant – if they can even become compliant,” the attorney general said.
Morrisey continued, “Finally, whether you are a coal miner from Boone County, a power plant worker from Jefferson County, Ohio, or a family in Pennsylvania, who depends on a job that services the energy sector, you need to know that we will stand up for you. You have a voice and we hear you. Let’s make sure the folks in Washington, D.C. hear you, too.”
Tomblin said, “Since the proposed rules were introduced in June, we have been told states will have flexibility to meet the new standards outlined in the plan, but in one instance, the EPA’s renewable energy goal for West Virginia — an increase of 600 percent — is simply unattainable,” Gov. Tomblin said. “Today’s rally gives us an opportunity to come together and explain the EPA should be working with us toward energy independence, not mandating unilateral restrictions on our nation’s energy production.”
Tomblin added, “In today’s economy, we should be working together toward energy independence, not allowing un-elected bureaucrats to obstruct our nation’s energy production. That’s why our state is joining the fight against the EPA’s proposed rules to establish unreasonable restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions.”
The Mountain State governor concluded, “growing up in the heart of coal country as a proud son of the West Virginia coalfields, I see the faces behind these numbers. When the EPA forces mines to close, I know the men and women who lose their jobs, the families who are at risk of losing their homes and the sons and daughters forced to move away to find work. Those West Virginians are the real reason I continue to stand up to the EPA – to be their voice and share their struggles with those who need to hear them. We can and must do better for our communities and families.”
A group from the Southern coalfields is also expected to attend the Thursday hearings in Pittsburgh to demand that the EPA work quicker and tougher in enforcing environmental regulations. Hearings are also scheduled in Atlanta and Denver on the proposed regulation changes.