POLITICS

Pennsylvania coal companies announce layoffs, blame Obama

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Joel Gehrke

Two coal companies in Pennsylvania blamed President Obama and his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the layoffs announced last week.

“[T]he escalating costs and uncertainty generated by recently advanced EPA regulations and interpretations have created a challenging business climate for the entire coal industry,” said PBS Coals Inc. President and CEO D. Lynn Shanks in a statement on Friday, as noted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  The company also cited weaker-than-normal demand for coal.

Shanks’ comment on the EPA came as he announced a 28 percent work force reduction. “PBS Coals Inc. and its affiliate company, RoxCoal Inc., laid off about 225 workers as part of an immediate idling of some deep and surface mines in Somerset County,” Post-Gazette added. “The company now employs 795 workers.”

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee staff issued a report last week faulting the EPA for over-regulating the industries under its control. “Over 40 EPA regulations cited by job creators as barriers to growth and expansion in the Committee’s February 2011 staff report remain a problem,” the staff report said.  “EPA’s proposal to regulate coal combustion residuals (“coal ash”) usurps states’ previous role and exerts unprecedented federal control over the utility industry . . . Compliance costs range from $78-110 billion over the next 20 years while job loss estimates range from 39,000, under a low estimate, to 316,000, under a high estimate.”

General Manager Ronald Koontz, a mine manager, hit the president for waging a “war on coal seeking to destroy the coal industry and the jobs of our own employees and the livelihoods of their families.”

Koontz’ remark dovetails with those of EPA’s New England Regional Administrator Curt Spaulding, who said the EPA had adopted a policy towards the coal industry that amounted to saying “we just think those communities should just go away,” as he put it earlier this year.

“You can’t imagine how tough that was, because — you got to remember — if you go to West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and all those places, you have coal communities who depend on coal,” Spaulding said. “It is painful every step of the way.”

 

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