Subcommittee Hears Directly From Workers and Officials of Communities Suffering from EPA’s Regulatory Assault

October 29, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), today held a hearing on “EPA’s Regulatory Threat to Affordable, Reliable Energy: The Perspective of Coal Communities.” Today’s hearing featured witnesses from communities particularly reliant on coal who are directly affected by the administration's regulatory assault on our abundant resource. Regulations stemming from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are having a crippling effect on these communities and local economies as power plants and mines have closed and thousands of workers have lost their jobs.

“Too often, the practice in Washington is to listen as beltway experts and the EPA explain agency actions. But this practice doesn’t capture the daily impact of Washington on the distant communities where good jobs, with good wages, support a proud way of life,” said Murphy. “In my district, the agency didn’t consider the nearly 400 people, who were put out of work last week at the Hatfield and Mitchell coal-fired power plants in Greene and Washington Counties. The EPA didn’t consider the ten people who lost their jobs at Joy Mining in Houston, Pennsylvania last Friday, or the 130 individuals at PBS Coals in Somerset County who were laid off in May, the third round of layoffs at the company in less than a year.”

Full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) added, “The views of the local officials and workers provide a testament to the importance of coal as a source of good, meaningful work, and as a support for the quality of life that all communities around the nation strive for. But the testimony today paints a troubling picture about the real damage that occurs when plants shutter, mines close, and people lose their jobs. It shouldn’t have to be this way.”  

Bell County, Kentucky, Judge-Executive Albey Brock gave an emotional account of the harmful consequences of EPA’s actions on families in his community. He explained that over 7,000 workers have lost their jobs in Eastern Kentucky over the last year two years, representing one billion dollars of earned wages that have been drained from the region’s economy. As a result, families have been forced to abandon their homes and depend on government programs just to survive. “I cannot imagine that the EPA calculated the human impact of their decisions that have so negatively impacted the coal industry in Eastern Kentucky, put thousands of families at risk, and threatened decades of progress. But if they did, they callously disregarded that calculation and violated the most basic moral imperative of our government, which is to protect its people,” said Brock.

John Pippy, CEO of the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance, described the importance of coal to Greene County, where coal “has long been its lifeblood.” He explained that the reach of EPA’s regulations extend far beyond those that work directly in the mines, stating, “Frankly any local company that supplies the coal industry or whose business is dependent on money from a miner or plant worker’s paycheck is impacted in some way by coal mining. This runs the gamut from construction worker to equipment manufacturer, truck driver to barge operator, engineer to tradesman, car dealers, restaurant owners and local grocery stores.”

Raymond Ventrone, Business Manager of Boilermakers Local 154 in Pittsburgh, said new unworkable regulations from the EPA were closing the very coal-fired power plants at which 400 union members make a living doing environmental maintenance. His union recently completed installation of state-of-the-art scrubbers on the Hatfield’s Ferry Power Station in Greene County, but now the plant is closed because the owner couldn’t comply with a looming EPA mandate. Ventrone said these rules and regulations should first be reviewed by Congress and the public, “We can have clean air and keep coal as a vital part of our economy, but we can’t do it if the EPA and their allies are allowed to continue waging a devastating war against our jobs.”

Chairman Murphy concluded, “I hope today’s hearing will help Congress make the right decisions going forward so that more people can benefit from the good and honorable living the coal industry provides.”

Just outside the U.S. Capitol today, thousands of American workers and their families rallied to stand up for American jobs and affordable energy, sending a message to policymakers about the importance of coal to their livelihoods and America’s overall economy. Click HERE to view pictures of Chairman Murphy speaking at the “Count on Coal” rally.