WHEELING - The Republican-led House on Friday passed legislation "to stop the war on coal," but local members acknowledged the measure is unlikely to be picked up by the Senate during this session of Congress that ends in December.
The "Stop the War on Coal Act," sponsored by Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, passed with a vote of 233-175, with 21 House members not voting. Reps. Johnson; Shelly Moore Capito and David McKinley, both R-W.Va.; Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio; and Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., all voted in favor of the bill.
The bill seeks to "protect American jobs and support U.S. energy production" by prohibiting the Secretary of the Interior from issuing new rules or regulations believed to adversely impact mining jobs or the economy.
The bill also contains an amendment offered by McKinley and modeled after his Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act, which calls for the "safe management and disposal of coal ash in a way that preserves jobs and encourages recycling." McKinley's "fly ash bill" previously passed the House as stand-alone legislation, and also as an amendment to the House version of the transportation bill, but it has thus far been rejected in the Senate.
Johnson admitted it wouldn't be easy to get his bill addressed in the Senate before the end of this Congress.
"We've had very little success getting leadership out of (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid," he said. "I hope reasonable minds will prevail, and we will see the Senate stand up and do what is right for the county. They should let the coal industry do what it has for centuries, and that's provide a cost-effective, reliable energy source so we can put Americans back to work."
President Barack Obama's war on coal is real and "is already costing jobs," according to Johnson. This week, Alpha Natural Resources announced it was laying off 1,200 workers in three states, and Murray Energy has announced it will close its mine in Brilliant.
"Both companies cite excessive government overregulation as the main reason for these layoffs," Johnson continued. "The 'Stop the War on Coal Act' is common sense legislation that protects coal jobs from these destructive regulations that have put the heavy boot of an out of control federal regulatory bureaucracy on the neck of the coal industry.
"Protecting America's coal industry and the jobs that go with it is part of a true 'all-of-the-above' approach to energy production that creates jobs, lowers energy prices and takes America one step closer to energy independence. Coal is critical to powering America, and I will always fight to end President Obama's assault on hard-working Americans who work in the coal industry and the many businesses that depend upon the reliable, cost-effective energy that coal provides."
McKinley said with 23 million people presently out of work across America, the president should be doing all he can to grow jobs.
"Instead, his administration's war on coal is putting more and more Americans in the unemployment lines," he added. "Tuesday's announcement that Alpha Natural Resources is closing eight of its mines and laying off more than 1,200 workers is only the latest example of the fallout. The Obama Administration's EPA and its excessive regulations are decimating the coal industry."
Capito also noted recent job losses.
"Because of the president's 'war on coal,' thousands of West Virginia families have to worry about where their next paycheck is going to come from," Capito said. "West Virginians love the Mountain State. We want to stay here and raise families, but the president's extreme policies are crippling entire towns and making it harder for workers to find jobs.
"Americans want a balanced, all-of-the-above energy policy that includes coal, natural gas, oil and renewables. Unfortunately, the president is beholden to an extreme environmental lobby that will stop at nothing to shut down fossil fuels. The president claims he wants an all-of-the-above energy policy, but his actions say otherwise."
Gibbs did not immediately return calls seeking comment.