Thursday, June 25, 2015

Republican-led Congress ignoring Obama's $3 billion proposal to aid coal communities

"A massive $3 billion package to help struggling coal communities transition to a new economy is sitting unappropriated in the Republican-led Congress. And lawmakers are saying little—at least publicly—about if and how they ever plan to support it," Naveena Sadasivam reports for InsideClimate News as part of the series Coal's Long Goodbye

POWER+ plan was part of the White House's February budget proposal "to support towns and communities struggling to cope with the decline in coal production and use," Sadasivam writes. "The initiative provides coal country with an influx of cash to reclaim abandoned mines, provide job training to miners, reform health and pension funds and invest in carbon capture technology."

"In order to move the money from federal coffers to the states and counties, Congress must allocate the money from the federal budget through appropriations bills," Sadasivam writes. "Since the POWER+ proposal includes legislative reforms and fund allocations, executing the White House’s plan will require a high level of coordination in Congress."

That's where the proposal seems to be running into problems, Sadasivam writes. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Congressman Hal Rogers, Republicans from a state—Kentucky—that has lost more coal jobs than any other state, have shown little support for the proposal and have blamed Obama for coal's demise.

After the proposal was released, McConnell said it "was 'cold comfort' for the Obama administration to 'suddenly propose easing the pain they've helped inflict on so many Kentucky coal families," Sadasivam writes. Rogers said, "The president is missing the point: for centuries, this country has run on coal. Businesses large and small rely on cheap, reliable energy to remain competitive, and drawn-out rulemaking processes and bureaucratic overreach create uncertainty that will raise energy costs and threaten American jobs."

While both have said the proposal needs to be seriously considered, they "emphasized the need for regulatory relief in addition to the monetary support," Sadasivam writes. Philip Wallach of the Brookings Institution "said that unless there is a big conversation shift around climate change and energy policy, he doesn’t expect McConnell, Rogers or any of the other coal-state Republican leaders to come out in full support of the proposal," saying it would be an "unimaginable reversal." (Read more)

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