Ohio Rep. Johnson: Obama, EPA to Blame for 1,200 Layoffs, Closings at Alpha Coal Mines

Wednesday, 19 Sep 2012 04:29 PM

By Todd Beamon and John Bachman

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Alpha Natural Resources’ announcement on Wednesday that it would close eight mines and eliminate 1,200 jobs is yet another casualty of the Obama administration’s “War on Coal,” Ohio Rep. Bill Johnson tells Newsmax.TV.

“We’ve lost a number of coal-fired power plants and have had to shut down because of the administration’s onerous regulations — and now we see the loss of 1,200 jobs across America,” Johnson, a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview. “That’s going to negatively affect many lives, but as this War on Coal continues, we’re going to begin to see skyrocketing energy prices as well.

Watch the exclusive interview here.

“Coal is the cheapest, most reliable form of energy on the planet — and it’s irresponsible what the administration is doing,” the Republican congressman said. “America gets about 45 percent of its energy from coal, and the state of Ohio gets over 80 percent of its energy from coal.”

Alpha Natural Resources Inc., the nation’s No. 2 coal producer, said it would close eight mines, eliminating 1,200 jobs across central Appalachia, and scale back coal production by 16 million tons per year.

The closings — to occur in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia — would affect 400 workers immediately. The company said it hoped to rehire some of the laid-off workers.

Kevin Crutchfield, the company’s chief executive officer, told Fox News that the layoffs and closings of the non-union mines resulted from a difficult market in which power plants are switching to abundant, less-expensive natural gas and “a regulatory environment that's aggressively aimed at constraining the use of coal.”

Johnson, whose congressional district encompasses the Ohio River, said that the myriad regulations imposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department’s reworking of the Stream Buffer Zone rule are devastating the coal industry.

The regulation was passed in 1983 to prevent rock, dirt, and debris from mountaintop removal mining from being dumped into streams.

A revised version of the Stream Buffer Zone rule, enacted near the end of the Bush administration, loosened criteria to allow such dumping when other options were "not reasonably possible" or much more costly than normal.

“The Obama administration said before they took office that they were going to virtually make it impossible to start up a coal-fired power plant and to operate it,” Johnson said. “Then, right after they took office, they began a very aggressive rewrite of the Stream Buffer Zone rule that threatens thousands of jobs and threatens to virtually shut down underground coal-mining across America, reduce production by up to 50 percent.

“It’s going to have devastating effects on energy prices,” he said.

Right now, Americans pay $300 more a year to power their homes, Johnson said. “Here, along the Ohio River, where we’re so dependent upon manufacturing, we need reliable energy in order to fuel the manufacturing operation. And you can’t do that when you’re taking that power source offline.”

This week, the House will vote on the “Stop the War on Coal Bill,” which seeks to ease EPA regulations on the industry. Johnson said the outcome of the vote will especially resonate among those in his district as Nov. 6 approaches.

“The people along the Ohio River in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, they understand how critically important coal is not only to their livelihoods, but to provide that cost-effective, reliable form of energy that we’ve become accustomed to.

“The people are very, very sensitized to what the administration is doing – and they’re happy to have someone like Mitt Romney running who’s going to stand up for coal.”

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