Friday, April 14, 2017

Visit from EPA head has some in coal country hopeful, others skeptical, about coal's future

EPA chief Scott Pruitt Thursday in Sycamore, Pa. (EPA photo)
On Thursday Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt visited with coal miners and local officials in Sycamore, Pa., spreading hope among among some, but skepticism among others, Emily Holden reports for Climatewire. Pruitt told coal workers, "There's always going to be a need for coal in the generation mix. We don't know what percentage or what part that's going to be, but we're going to be part of it as long as we mine coal safely and compliantly and take care of the environment."

While the Trump administration and many Republican leaders have blamed Obama-era regulations for killing coal jobs, cheaper natural gas, competition from foreign markets, and depleted coalfields also played roles, probably larger as a whole. Holden writes, "In truth, coal capacity might have fallen by about 28 percent by 2028 under the Clean Power Plan. Without it, it still might decrease 17 percent, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration."

Coal supporters were happy to see Truitt in Sycamore, even if the mine's owner, Consol Energy Inc., "wants to sell the mine so it can focus on more lucrative natural gas projects," Holden writes. Rachel Gleason, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance, who was part of a group who met with Pruitt, told her, "It says a lot to have an EPA administrator visit a mine in Pennsylvania. It sent a good message they are serious about stopping the regulatory attack that we've been under for the past eight years."

While coal backers were encouraged by Pruitt's visit, "advocates for poor communities and small-town representatives said, the Trump administration's narrative could distract from a real problem—that, one way or another, coal won't stick around forever to bolster local economies," Holden writes.

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