By T.L. HEADLEY, MBA, MAT, MA
I would agree wholeheartedly that the EPA has “not forgotten” Appalachia in making its new rules. In fact, it has TARGETED Appalachia with those rules, doing its best to destroy an entire industry and the communities that depend on it.
I would also say, echoing my dear, sweet grandmother, “it is better to remain silent and have people believe you a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt.”
In making their assertion for the umpteenth time that “there is no war on coal,” the Gazette editors show they are either ignorant of reality or actively involved in attempts to deceive the public.
Fact 1: In 2008, one year before Obama, West Virginia produced 160 million tons of coal and there were 24,000 people actively employed directly as coal miners in the state. Each of those 24,000 jobs supported another five jobs for a total of 120,000 indirect jobs.
Fact 2: Obama said clearly that he plans to “bankrupt” those who want to build coal-fired power plants during the campaign. Joe Biden makes clear there will “be no coal-fired power plants here.”
Fact 3: Literally the day after Obama takes office the EPA begins a regulatory assault on coal mining that continues to this day — an assault that goes far beyond the congressionally mandated authority provided to EPA.
Fact 4: Regulations like the MATS Rule, like the Existing Source and New Source Performance Standards, and many, many others have resulted in the closure or pending closure of hundreds of coal fired power plants. It has also essentially stopped the construction of any new power plants or any major overhauls to existing ones that might trigger NSPS standards.
Fact 5: Even today, that “cheap natural gas” is higher on a per million Btu basis than any coal. Despite this, “cheap natural gas” is trading at least 50 percent below its market breakeven price (the price to produce it). IF any of you have the slightest knowledge of basic market economics, you will understand that this cannot continue and the “cheap natural gas” will have to “skyrocket” in price.
Fact 6: Utility executives are warning that the forced changes are endangering the grid. In fact, Mark Dempsey of Appalachian Power said in no uncertain terms at a recent meeting in Charleston that “if we have another winter like we had the last two years there WILL be blackouts and brownouts.”
Fact 7: According to those same utility executives, consumer rates for electricity in West Virginia have doubled in the past seven years — yes, they are up 100%+ since Obama took office and still more increases are pending. These increased rates are creating energy poverty in the state, taking more and more of the monthly income of retirees and those on fixed income to simply pay for their electric bills.
Fact 8: Obama Administration officials have themselves characterized the regulatory assault on coal as a “war on coal.” I would think they would know better than the editors of the Gazette their policy goals.
Fact 9: Today, as a direct result of the Obama policies, West Virginia’s coal production has declined to just 116 million tons (down 30 percent) from its 2008 levels of 165 million tons. Likewise, coal mining employment has fallen from 24,000 direct coal miners in the state to just 15,000 today (down 37.5 percent) from 2008. And those 9,000 lost coal mining jobs translate into a further loss of another 45,000 support jobs in the state, most of which are in the poorest, most rural areas of the state, where replacement jobs are non-existent.
Fact 10: As a result of the run up in unemployment due to coal industry and related job losses, unemployment rates across the coalfields are in excess of 12 percent with highs of 15-16 percent in several counties. And by extension, the levels of childhood poverty have skyrocketed in the state along with all the problems that result.
Fact 11: The wages and taxes lost as a result of the Obama regulatory assault on coal are measured in the BILLIONS of dollars annually. Obama’s “help” is a small fraction of a single year’s economic contribution of the coal industry. It is essentially throwing a few table scraps to the “poor West Virginians” and then telling them to go away and be grateful for even being acknowledged.
Fact 12: West Virginians deserve better from their government AND their media than their condescension. They especially deserve a media that doesn’t push a political agenda at the expense of truth.
By T.L. HEADLEY, MBA, MAT, MA