Policy: Environment & Energy

'War on coal' is a war on coal miners

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Opinion,Op-Eds,EPA,Gina McCarthy,Energy and Environment,Coal

In October, I was honored to take part in a coal miners' rally in the heart of the nation's capital. Thousands of my fellow miners and our families gathered on the steps of the Capitol to call attention to the plight of the coal worker, who has been under attack by the overreaching environmental regulations of the Obama administration.

Hailing from Appalachia’s coal country, I see daily the devastating impact the administration’s coal regulations wreak on my community and those throughout America. In Washington, these rules live in the media, in presentations and in meeting rooms. But in our world, these rules play out in our daily lives — as each day, many hard-working Americans who help ensure we have electricity for our homes and workplaces hang up their hard hats and go home ... for good.

It's not just the coal miners who suffer from the administration's efforts to take coal out of our nation's Energy mix. It's everyone connected to the industry -- from the coal transporter to the power plant worker to the small business owner down the street -- who all depend on affordable and reliable electricity to stay in business. It's our families, our communities and our regions that are devastated. And it's felt in the pocketbooks of all Americans who depend on affordable utility bills.

When U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy chose not to come to Appalachian coal country during the agency's so-called listening tour related to regulations impacting coal-fired power plants, she made a conscious decision to not hear from the men and women who could offer an honest and sobering perspective of what happens when mines and power plants close.

To the contrary, she met with and welcomed comments from environmental groups that celebrate the closure of mines and plants, whose collateral damage is the loss of high-wage jobs that contribute so much to small communities throughout our nation. When regulating our energy future, we must balance both the environmental and economic sides – especially when considering how many people’s livelihoods are at stake.

If there was ever a resource worth preserving, it is the American coal miner. They proudly toil in the darkness of mines so all Americans can have light in their homes. They don’t stand in a line waiting for a handout. They put on their hard hats, head into the mines and don’t look back. They go home with coal dirt around their eyes and under their fingernails because they are not afraid of an honest day’s work. Coal miners are the epitome of the American worker, with a strong back and a big heart providing an essential commodity to our country, and in turn, providing families with food, shelter and a path for the future.

In our quest to preserve our nation and our planet and protect America’s energy future, I hope our elected representatives ultimately listen to the voice of the American workers who are most impacted by their decisions — and find balance to protect the workers’ future, as well.

Dave Green is a 31-year -old coal miner in Beckley, W.Va., and captain of the Coal River East Mine Rescue team for Alpha Natural Resources. He has been mining since 2004.
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