The House on Friday passed a package of bills to ease Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations against the coal industry, an issue Republicans are banking on to attract voters who will bear the brunt of increased electricity rates as a result of the Obama administration rules.
The Republican measure passed on a vote of 233 to 175 with 19 Democrats voting to support it, and 13 Republicans voting no.
???Since taking office, the Obama administration has waged a multi-front war on coal, on coal jobs, on the small businesses in the mining supply chain, and on the low-cost energy that millions of Americans rely upon,??? said Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.
An estimated 2,000 jobs have been lost in the coal industry this year, with another 10,000 layoffs in direct and related jobs expecting in coming months. This week, Alpha Natural Resources announced they were closing eight mines and cutting 1,200 jobs, citing aggressive regulations as the reason for the company???s failure. The coal industry estimates its labor force at 135,000.
???President Obama???s war on coal is real,??? Hastings said. ???The lost jobs are already happening and thousands more are at risk. Americans??? energy costs are already too high, and the war on coal will drive them higher.???
The Stop the War on Coal Act includes five bills that would block greenhouse gas regulations, require a cost and economic impact accounting of certain regulations imposed by the EPA give the states rather than the federal government regulation of coal ash and water pollution control, and an embargo on a surface mining rule.
Four of the five bills in the language have already passed the House: the Energy Tax Prevention Act passed April 2, 2011 on a 255 to 172 vote, the Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act passed Sept. 23, 2011 on a 249-169 vote, the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act passed July 13, 2011 by 239 to 184; and the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act passed Oct. 14, 2011 on a 267 to 144 vote.
The president???s office outlined numerous objections to these bills in several statements along with veto threats. It said blocking the greenhouse gas tax ???threatens the health of Americans across the country,??? and would cause 160,000 premature deaths and 130,000 heart attacks.
???Further (the language) would second guess the widely accepted scientific consensus that carbon pollution is at increasingly dangerous concentrations and is contributing to the threat of climate change,??? the administration statement said.
They also oppose the regulatory analysis bill stating that such studies are costly and unnecessary, the clean water legislation for restricting the EPA???s authority to take action against state-issued permits, and called the coal ash measure ???deficient.???
The last component, the Coal Miner Employment and Domestic Energy Infrastructure Protection Act, is new legislation crafted after an investigation by Hastings??? committee of attempts by the Interior Department to rewrite stream buffer zone regulations imposed by the previous Bush administration.
Documents supporting the new rules were leaked to the media last year stating that the rewrite would result in 7,000 jobs lost, and an additional 29,000 people would sink below the poverty line in the Appalachian basin.
After the numbers became public, the Obama administration blamed an outside contractor for a miscommunication. This language would block the new rule from taking effect until Dec. 31, 2013 giving bureaucrats more time to write a ???legally defensible??? rule.
???The heavy-handed regulatory regime championed by this administration and EPA is strangling the economy, driving up energy prices for consumers, and putting people out of work,??? said Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.