It was announced on Mon., June 2 that President Barrack Obama was partnering with the Environmental Protection Agency to form a new rule to lower the effects that greenhouse gases have on the environment, but at what cost?
The proposed rule has three main goals: cut carbon pollution in America, prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change and lead international efforts to combat global climate change and prepare for its impacts. The plan is to cut greenhouse emissions to 30 percent of the 2005 levels by 2030.
According to the United States Chamber of Commerce, the rule’s effect on the national economy could be detrimental, costing the country $8.8 billion annually.
“The proposed rule issued today by the Environmental Protection Agency will lead to long-term and irreversible job losses for thousands of coal miners, electrical workers, utility workers, boilermakers, railroad workers and others without achieving any significant reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions,” United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) President Cecil E. Roberts said. “Our initial analysis indicates that there will be a loss of 75,000 direct coal generation jobs in the United States by 2020. Those are jobs primarily in coal mines, power plants, and railroads. By 2035, those job losses will more than double to 152,000. That amounts to about a 50 percent cut in these well-paying, highly skilled jobs. When a U.S. government economic multiplier used to calculate the impact of job losses is applied to the entire economy, we estimate that the total impact will be about 485,000 permanent jobs lost.”
But what type of effects will this have on the local economy?
“Each state’s goal is tailored to its own circumstances, and states have the flexibility to reach their goal in whatever works best for them,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said.
West Virginia as a whole is getting a pretty good deal in this rule compared to most coal producing states, cutting our Adjusted Output from 1,748 average pounds of carbon dioxide per net megawatt-hour from all affected fossil fuel fired electric generating units to 1,620.
In comparison, Virginia will be cut from 884-810. Kentucky will be cut from 1,844 to 1,763. Washington, with a much lower coal production rate, will be cut to 215 pounds per net MWh.
However, many still believe that this will cause economic destruction within the coalfields.
The EPA itself admits that coal production for electric could drop up to 27 percent total by 2020, 37 percent in Appalachia.
“This is simply a recipe for disaster in America’s coalfields, especially the eastern coalfields,” Roberts said. “That is where the hammer of this rule will fall the hardest. And it’s not just that these jobs will be lost, it’s that the ability of companies to continue funding pension and retiree health care benefits will be at great risk. That puts hundreds of thousands more — mostly senior citizens living on already-low fixed incomes — squarely in the crosshairs of this rule.”
As for the effect on Logan County’s economy, many are worried that the few remaining coal jobs will diminish quickly as soon as this law is passed.
“What people don’t realize is as much as it affects the mines, it’s gonna affect the newspapers, the gas stations, and the jewelry store down the road,” Logan native Cindy Hawkins said. “The coal mines is what we know. It’s the main job around here. If they don’t get their pay, do you think they’ll be able to afford things like a newspaper? They’ll go from buying things they want to just the priorities.”
Being from the Man area, Hawkins grew up in a coal mining family and town.
“I remember, when I used to work at a gas station, the men from Cliff’s were temporarily cut from six day work weeks to four days,” Hawkins said. “We felt the effects even at the station. Men who would come in every day and spent $20 weren’t in as often. Things like this that affect the coal mining industry affect our entire communities.”
Many local organizations are speaking out about the proposed legislation as well. Friends of Coal say that the EPA is “totally out of touch” by saying that phasing out coal will lower electric bills eight percent.
“Like so many of EPA’s actions, this regulation strikes at the heart of a very reliable and affordable source of American energy — coal. This proposal is a direct assault on existing coal-fired power plants and the hard-working West Virginians who mine the coal that keeps these plants online. It also shows that President Obama has a callous disregard for the poverty plaguing West Virginia and our country.”
Roger Horton, director of Citizens for Coal, says that the local economy is already feeling the impacts of what he referred to as Obama’s War on Coal and the passage of this law would have horrific effects on the entire country.
“If this bill passes, our nation will turn into a third-world country,” Horton said.
According to his math, every mining job in Logan Co. directly affects five other jobs.
“You lose your electricians, your clerical workers, your secretarial staff and so on,” Horton said. “It’s not just the miners that are losing in these situations.”
He says that the recent layoffs at Guyan affected 200 miners. Multiply that by five and you have 1,000 people locally who are struggling.
“And do you know what China and India and every other coal-producing country in the world is doing right now,” Horton asked. “They’re laughing their butts off all the way to the bank.”
That’s because, not only will America’s economy suffer greatly, but many experts are predicting that global greenhouse emissions will not change.
“We have to fight this,” Horton said. “Not just the miners, but every single person in W.Va. We need to be ringing the phones off the hook in Washington, ringing the phones off the hook at the EPA. Let them know how much this is effecting us.”
Horton urges Logan countians to come to Coalstock Sat. June 7 from 2-8 p.m. to learn how to get more involved and to fight back. Many W.Va. officials will be there to get people connected.
“Obama doesn’t care about me. He doesn’t care about you. He doesn’t care about any of the major coal producing states,” Horton said. “But we aren’t going down without a fight.”