Fifty members of Kentucky’s House of Representatives have sent a letter to President Obama to protest what they’re calling an “unfair attack on coal.”
The letter was sent today from House Speaker Greg Stumbo’s office, and signed by 49 of his colleagues, including Jefferson County representatives Larry Clark and Tom Burch. It asks Obama to take a step back from the promises he made in his big climate change address in June (where he talked a lot about reducing greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants), and instead think about the effect a decline in coal usage will have on states like Kentucky.
The letter lists the way coal is economically important to Kentucky: jobs, severance taxes, earnings and indirect jobs. Then the legislators put out a plea to the president:
When these jobs are all but gone, can you tell us how we are supposed to replace them and the more than $1 billion in lost earnings? Job opportunities are already scarce in most of our mining communities. Our state also relies on coal-severance tax receipts, which totaled approximately $230 million in fiscal year 2013. Where will we get the support to offset the loss of those dollars? And the companies that choose to base their business in the Commonwealth because it has some of the lowest energy rates in the nation: How are we going to be able to attract and retain those businesses and jobs?
The lawmakers acknowledge that Obama’s plan includes $8 million for technology research, but urge him to pour more resources into “clean-coal technology,” which typically includes carbon capture and sequestration.
Not surprisingly, the letter doesn’t mention any of the factors other than regulation which have been hurting the coal industry in the past few years: low natural gas prices, declining reserves, newer technology that increases the competitiveness of the higher sulfur coal in the Illinois Basin (which includes Western Kentucky’s coalfields). The issues confronting coal are real, and questions about the state’s economic viability and corresponding loss of jobs are ones that many Kentuckians might pose to their state lawmakers.