Wednesday, January 15, 2014

House Appropriations Committee chair includes protections for the coal industry in budget bill

U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky.
The $1 trillion budget plan introduced to Congress on Monday by Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) has policy riders that are pro-coal, Washington correspondent James R. Carroll reports for the The Courier-Journal. Rogers and Mikulski chair the appropriations committees; he represents the nation's poorest congressional district, which has seen its coal industry more than decimated by geologic, economic and regulatory factors in the last two years. Her state has a small amount of coal, some of which has been strip mined.

The bill, which the White House has endorsed, includes a provision that bars "any funding for the Army Corps of Engineers that would be used to change how 'fill material' from mountaintop mining and other operations is defined," Carroll reports. Coal interests fear a redefinition by the Corps and the Environmental Protection Agency that would complicate mountaintop mining, which relies on valley fills to dispose of much of the excavated material. UPDATE, Jan. 17: Francis X. Clines of The New York Times editorial page gives details in a blog post titled "Congress Moves Mountains."

The bill would also "prohibit the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corp. from cutting funding for coal-fired power plants overseas. The Ex-Im Bank last month adopted regulations requiring new coal plants to capture carbon emissions." The bill would also "provide at least $3 million for business development, job training and technical assistance in economically distressed communities dependent on the coal industry."

Rogers issued a statement saying, “The nation’s coal industry has taken a beating from the Obama administration’s war on coal, which has cost thousands of jobs in my district alone. Coal exports are an important and growing aspect of the industry and have a huge benefit to U.S. economic health and job creation. This provision will ensure that these exports aren’t unnecessarily slowed by overregulation, to give U.S. industries a fair shot in the global marketplace.” (Read more)

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