In His Second Term, How Will Obama Approach Fossil Fuels?

For the past four years, officials in Kentucky’s coal industry have fought President Obama’s steps to further regulate emissions from coal plants and pollution from coal mining. Now that the president has won re-election, they wonder if anything will change in a second term.

President Obama’s administration has put into motion numerous regulations that affect the coal industry. But many of these aren’t actually in effect yet…they’re still moving through the rule making process, or are tied up in court.

Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett says he hopes the president’s frequent trips to coal-producing areas of Ohio during the campaign will have changed his opinion about fossil fuels. He says he’d like to see the president work more with the industry, which he predicts will survive the new regulations.

“Even if all the copious regulation that the EPA has suggested, what we often call the ‘train wreck’ over the next four years that involve the production and use of coal [go into effect], we’re still going to be mining coal, and coal is still going to be used in this country, in Kentucky,” he said. “But how much coal we mine, how we use it and who is the end user of that coal remain the three driving questions.”

Meanwhile, environmental groups rejoiced. Most backed the president’s re-election, and they say it’s especially significant that the president won despite millions spent in opposition by energy groups.

Heather Taylor is the director of the Natural Resource’s Defense Council’s Action Fund, which advocates for clean energy and has also been involved in running political ads during this year’s election. Taylor says the millions fossil fuel groups spent on races didn’t produce the desired results, and instead emboldened Congress to act on clean energy legislation.

“What they did do is they targeted a whole bunch of people who are going to Congress and who are going to be returning to Congress and those folks will have a knowledge that the fossil fuel industry, they can pull out all the stops and the voters have already sided with clean energy,” she said.

Politico reported today that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson may not stick around for a second term; if she leaves, her successor will likely face a tough confirmation, and could lead to a change in policy.

But the House remains in Republican control, and House Energy Chairman Fred Upton won re-election, so it’s likely some of the same battles over environmental regulations will re-emerge during the president’s second term.

Erica Peterson

Erica Peterson reports on energy and the environment for WFPL.

@ericampeterson

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