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We won't let President Obama turn off the lights

Jul. 20, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

West Virginians understand that coal is an affordable and abundant source of energy. We also know that coal isn't just the backbone of our state, but it plays a vital role in our nation's economy.

Yet, despite the obvious benefits of coal, President Obama has waged a renewed war on the industry. He recently announced that he will be pursuing stringent regulations that could devastate our state. And if you aren't convinced that the president is waging a war on coal, look no further than his own climate adviser Daniel Schrag. He told the New York Times that "a war on coal is exactly what's needed."

President Obama's announcement and his climate adviser's comments underscore the deep disconnect between Washington politicians and the real world. Shutting down the production of coal will not only make it impossible for America to become energy independent, but it could deliver an unrecoverable blow to coal-rich states like West Virginia.

The president failed to get his environmental agenda through Congress for a reason. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle recognized that the president's cap-and-trade agenda would have a devastating impact on our nation's economy. Even though it failed to pass Congress, similar environmental regulations under the Obama administration have already cost West Virginians greatly.

Eighteen West Virginia coal units have been closed due to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations.

These shutdowns alone are estimated to cost approximately 1,000 jobs in West Virginia. Combined with the EPA's virtual moratorium on the issuance of mining permits, these regulations have contributed to the layoffs of thousands of workers at mines across Appalachia.

Twelve hundred West Virginia mining jobs were lost in the fourth quarter of 2012 alone, and coal production from surface operations fell to the lowest quarterly level in 25 years.

Unfortunately, I fear that the worst is yet to come. President Obama's recently announced rulemaking has the potential to dwarf the impacts of previous regulations and lead to even more job loss across our state.

The new regulations won't just impact our economy. They will increase electricity costs for West Virginians. That means the families who are already struggling to make ends meet will be forced to spend even more on bills each month. I am also very concerned about how these increased costs will affect West Virginia's most vulnerable citizens -- the elderly, the disabled, and those who live on a fixed income.

Our abundant coal reserves don't only benefit West Virginia.

They provide our nation with a tremendous competitive advantage in the global economy. The president's own Energy Information Agency projects that coal will continue to account for at least 35 percent of U.S. electricity generation through 2040.

And as clean coal technology continues to improve, the industry can find ways to reduce its environmental impact without putting hardworking West Virginians out of a job.

As a proud West Virginian, I have a message for President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who put their liberal base ahead of American jobs. We won't let you turn off the lights on West Virginia.

U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican, has represented West Virginia's 2nd Congressional District, since 2001.

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