On the West Lawn, 38 members of Congress from across the country also joined The Rally for American Energy Jobs, organized by the National Mining Association (NMA). The event highlighted the potentially devastating Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) greenhouse gas (GHG) rules affecting new and existing coal plants.
The event coincided with bipartisan efforts by two lawmakers — Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Energy and Power Subcommittee — to offer a discussion draft bill requiring that EPA officials base GHG standards for new coal-based power plants on proven, commercially available technology. The draft would forestall the EPA’s existing New Source Performance Standard requiring unproven carbon capture technology for new power plants burning coal.
The threat to the industry is serious, noted Whitfield. “America will be the only country in the world where you cannot build a coal-fired power plant because the technologies required to meet the standards are not commercially viable,” he said. Whitfield’s panel plans an oversight hearing on November 14 to examine the EPA regulation impacts on economic conditions in coal regions and the discussion draft legislation.
House leaders quickly endorsed the bill. “This legislation will ensure costly regulations do not raise energy prices and threaten this [manufacturing] renaissance, and I look forward to moving the bill through the committee and to the floor,” said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.).
NMA CEO Hal Quinn lauded these efforts while noting the EPA scheduled so-called listening sessions for public input on its rules everywhere, except regions where people would be negatively affected by them. “By bringing the coal community to Washington, the EPA will finally have an opportunity to listen to those who stand the most to lose from its reckless regulatory gamble with their livelihoods and our economy,” he said.
John Roeber, president of the Montana State Building and Construction Trades Council, said the rally was not just about coal jobs, but energy jobs. “Affordable and reliable electricity makes our economy work; it makes economic growth and job creation possible,” he said. “But all we hear is why we can’t use fossil fuels, and coal in particular.”
Other Congressional leaders in attendance agreed, including Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va), as well as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), among others.
“The EPA wasn’t interested in your opinion when they wanted public input from places like Boston and San Francisco, so you brought the voice of coal here to them,” Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) told a cheering crowd.