LANCASTER, Pa. — Three days after Human Events went to West Virginia to hear Republicans respond to what they consider the Obama administration’s “war on coal,” we went to Pennsylvania and heard almost eerily-similar outrage over an assault on that state’s coal industry.
“This administration is restricting our opportunities to get resources from beneath our own feet,” businessman and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Steve Welch told us before the Lancaster County Republican dinner Tuesday night. Like the Republicans in West Virginia, Welch cited a hostile attitude by the Environmental Protection Agency toward the coal industry in Pennsylvania.
“And it’s not just the coal industry, but it’s natural gas and the production of low-cost energy in general that have suffered as a result of the EPA,” said Welch, one of five Republicans vying for nomination to oppose Democratic Sen. Bob Casey in the April 24 primary.
Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), a senior Republican on the House Energy Committee, agreed. As he put it, “here in Pennsylvania, 58 percent of our electricity comes from coal. So when the administration is going after the coal industry, we feel it, all right.”
Pitts and others said that the hostility from the EPA is directed not only at the coal industry but the energy industry in general. The congressman specifically cited the bureaucratic hurdles that the power plants in the Keystone State which, Pitts warned, “could well shut them down.”
“There is a tendency in this administration to overreach and this is an example. They couldn’t get cap-and-trade legislation enacted in Congress so they try to accomplish its goals through regulations,” he said.
State Rep. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster County) told us that “without a doubt, there is a war on coal being waged by the Obama administration. And because of the pressure from the extreme environmentalists the administration feels it has to cultivate, the EPA also makes it more difficult for us to develop the Marcellus Shale that is a tremendous source of energy in Pennsylvania. And when you deal with extreme environmentalists, you are dealing with people who are not interested in finding common ground with the business community.”
Even Mitt Romney made some not-so-subtle hints about the issue of EPA hostility to the energy industry in Pennsylvania. In his address to the 1,100-plus Republicans at the Lancaster Convention Center, the presidential hopeful said he finally figured out what the president meant when he said he supported “all of the above for energy resources — he means all of the above ground [resources], like wind and solar [power] and nothing below.” Identifying himself with the energy industry, Romney went on to say “we like coal and gas” and promised that, if elected president, “I’ll get America to be independent” as an energy source.
Virtually all evidence Human Events gathered in West Virginia over the weekend pointed to the “war on coal” putting that state’s five electoral votes in Republican hands with ease this fall. As to whether a similar effort in Pennsylvania will put that state’s 20 electoral votes in the Republican Party column is uncertain for now. But it is clear that if Pennsylvania does reverse itself from going for Barack Obama in 2008, one key factor will be what is increasingly called Obama’s “war on energy.”