Obama Backs EPA War on Coal, While Networks Ignore Harm to Industry

Posted on Fri 06/17/2011 by

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By Julia A Seymour

It is no longer a secret that President Obama’s administration is willing to allow electricity prices to “necessarily skyrocket,” in order to accomplish his green energy agenda.

Although he has so far been unsuccessful at instituting cap-and-trade, Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is hard at work running coal companies and consumers into the ground. Not that you’d know it from ABC, NBC and CBS news coverage.

According to Paul Bedard’s June 8 Washington Whispers column in US News & World Report, “two new EPA pollution regulations will slam the coal industry so hard that hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost, and electric rates will skyrocket 11 percent to over 23 percent, according to a new study based on government data.”

The Hill reported that the EPA is attempting to “impose new regulations aimed at limiting greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants including mercury and arsenic.”

American Electric Power (AEP) released its proposed compliance plan on June 9 for those “pending” EPA regulations. AEP, which is one of the largest U.S. utilities and delivers electricity to more than 5 million people, said that in order to comply with the new regulations they would need to retire 6,000 megawatts of coal-generated power in the next couple of years.

They would also have to shutter five plants (two in W.Va., two in Ohio and one in Va.) entirely and retrofit others, costing $6 billion to $8 billion. AEP also estimated a net loss of 600 power plant jobs, not including the ripple effect through the industry and affected communities. Higher energy prices are regressive and hurt the poorest the most.

Bloomberg reported on June 13, that if AEP is unable to pass on compliance costs due to state regulators, it may also have to sell Kentucky Power.

Yet, according to a Nexis search only three network news stories in 2011 have even mentioned coal and the EPA in the same story. One story mentioned the potential for the Senate to vote to stop the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. But in the other two cases, the networks alluded to new EPA regulations, praised them and included representatives from the left-wing Sierra Club, while ignoring costs to industry and consumers.

Both of those stories were on ABC, one on “Good Morning America” and the other on “World News with Diane Sawyer.” The “World News” story talked about the “terror” of coal ash and one town’s “cry for help.”

ABC’s Jim Sciutto referenced one of the proposed EPA regulations March 29, 2011 saying, “Well, last year, the EPA proposed calling this [coal ash] hazardous waste. That would have required real safety measures, protective liners, water monitoring. But they stalled that rule. Now they’re considering something much more lenient which would not even be federally enforceable.”

“Good Morning America,” alluded to another of the proposed EPA regulations – this one about mercury saying, “the EPA put out new protections about mercury because high levels of mercury” are dangerous. Sam Champion interviewed Mary Anne Hitt from the left-wing Sierra Club on March 17, 2011, who said, “All of us will be exposed to less mercury thanks to these new EPA protections, which are just a draft.”

The networks couldn’t muster a story, or even a word in either of those stories about the how the coal industry and the economy would be impacted by the EPA proposals. With more than half the nation’s electricity currently fueled by coal, the impact will be huge especially in the nation’s heartland.

The left may want to pretend that the billions of dollars companies would have to spend to comply with new regulations will simply come out of some rich guy’s pockets, but the reality is that it will take away coal mining and plant jobs from people who have families to support and raise electricity rates for all consumers – many of whom are already struggling in a very difficult economy.

Julie Wern writing for the Chicago Tribune said that consumers in the 13 states serviced by the PJM Interconnection (which includes Illinois) could see their electric bills “jump an estimated 40 to 60 percent in the next few years.”

Wern correctly identified pending EPA regulations that will make coal plants more expensive to run (and shut some plants down) as the cause for the potential rate hikes.

AEP’s own estimate for electricity price increases was 10 to 35 percent. Of course liberal environmentalists were thrilled by AEP’s compliance plan. A Sierra Club spokeswoman (the same woman consulted by ABC), said “If AEP follows through with this plan then it will join a growing list of utilities … that have come to the same conclusion: coal has become an increasingly poor investment.” She also blamed coal plants for “thousands of premature deaths, asthma attacks and heart attacks every year.”

Struggling families, however, are likely to be much less excited by the White House’s attempts to regulate coal plants out of existence while being forced to bear the burden of higher costs, fewer jobs and potentially less reliable energy.

Obama’s Plan to ‘Bankrupt’ Coal Hits Hard in West Virginia

President Obama threatened to bankrupt the coal industry with cap-and-trade legislation. Now his EPA is making good on that threat through regulation.

In a January 2008 interview, Obama said: “So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”

The EPA has already taken other steps against the coal mining industry. In January 2011, the EPA took an unprecendented step by revoking a 4-year-old clean water permit from Arch Coal’s Spruce Mine No. 1 located in West Virginia.

Investor’s Business Daily (IBD) noted in a Jan. 19, 2011 editorial that Arch Coal “followed every jot and tittle of the rules it was to operate under.” The company had also invested $250 million in that particular mine project.

According to IBD, this was all part of “Obama’s War on Coal,” and remarked that “it matters not even if you follow the rules” because the EPA’s actions proved “rules can be changed on the fly.”

Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., expressed concerns following the EPA decision regarding Arch Coal, saying ‘it just sends a very chilling effect upon any company that is currently negotiating, in good faith, with the EPA to obtain a permit for a worthwhile project.’ His remarks were to MetroNewsTalkline in W.Va.

In April, Arch Coal sued the EPA for revoking that permit, according to the Charleston Gazette.

BMI Finds Networks Ignore Coal Industry Unless Disaster Strikes

In February 2011, the Business & Media Institute released an analysis of broadcast network news stories mentioning coal in reference to coal mining, energy from coal and the coal industry between Jan. 1, 2010 and Jan. 31, 2011. BMI found that 79.5 percent of those stories were focused on a mining accident or mine-related disaster.

The mainstream news media often given coal a bad name, literally, calling it the “dirtiest fuel on earth,” “dangerous” and “polluting.” Of course the primary reason for those attacks is that coal is a fossil fuel, which the media have long campaigned against in the name of global warming alarmism.

But what the networks rarely report is how necessary coal power is for the U.S., that it provides high paying jobs in rural areas, and that it has been getting safer. According to National Mining Association spokesman Luke Popovich the U.S. coal mining industry has cut fatal injuries by two-thirds in the past 18 years. It has also gotten cleaner; he said that since 1980 U.S. power plants have reduced “criteria pollutants” regulated by the Clean Air Act by more than 50 percent.

Despite that record, the network news media focused on the coal industry almost exclusively when a tragedy occurs, such as the April 2010 mine explosion that took 29 lives. While such disasters are worthy of attention, it is unfair of the networks to also ignore the necessity of the industry and the benefits coal brings to mining communities’ economies and to the country as a whole by supplying a stable domestic source of energy production.

Julia A. Seymour Contributes posts at the NewsBusters site where she is an Assistant Editor/Analyst for the Business & Media Institute of the Media Research Center.

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