Twitter icon
Facebook icon
YouTube icon
RSS icon

Congressman Andy Barr

Representing All the People of Kentucky's Sixth District

Barr Urges the President to Abandon Anti-Coal Policies, Put the American People Back to Work and Protect the Environment

Sep 18, 2013
Video

On Tuesday, September 17, Congressman Andy Barr (KY-6) spoke on the floor of the United States House of Representatives about the Obama Administration's radical energy-rationing agenda that threatens Kentucky families, workers, and entire industries across the Commonwealth and the country.  

As Barr points out, the Obama EPA's "regulatory carbon tax is the keystone of a radical environmental agenda, the disastrous results of which are already known in my district of central and eastern Kentucky. The New Source Performance Standards will finish the job that a deadlocked permitting process and multibillion-dollar regulations like Utility MACT have started: killing the coal industry and driving up the cost of energy, a top-line budget item for families already struggling to get by in this President's economy."

"Last month, the Commonwealth of Kentucky released statistics on the health of the coal industry for the second quarter of this year, and the story they tell is dire, even before yesterday's news of another 525 layoffs. Eastern Kentucky coal mines facing the brunt of this President's regulatory overreach shed another 851 jobs last quarter, leaving the total number of Kentucky employed at the mines at just 12,342. That is the lowest number since Kentucky began keeping such statistics in 1927. Eastern Kentucky coal production is down a whopping 41.4 percent in just the last 2 years. And with those reductions, we have lost over 5,700 mining jobs."

"I urge the President to abandon these disastrous, job-killing policies and to come to Congress to work on a plan that will relieve energy costs for our families. Put the American people back to work and protect the environment. Otherwise, this week's announcement of these New Source Performance Standards will demonstrate a willful denial of these ambitions and a ruthless attack on a centuries-old industry that has provided jobs and economic opportunity for thousands of Americans." 
 

FULL TRANSCRIPT OF SPEECH:

I thank the gentleman, my friend from Ohio, for yielding and for organizing this Special Order on coal. 

This fall marks the fifth anniversary of the financial crisis. We remain burdened by a weak economic recovery, with unemployment still lingering above 7 percent, two-thirds of the American people living paycheck to paycheck, and only 58 percent of the working-age population in this country employed. But this does not seem to concern this President or this administration. Unable to wage a war in Syria due to immense public opposition, the President, for some reason, seems intent on conducting a war on jobs. 

Whether it's driving up the cost of health care with the disastrous Affordable Care Act or burdening community banks with mountains of bureaucratic red tape from the Dodd-Frank Act, this administration is seemingly intent on doing everything in its power to ensure this recovery remains slow and painful. 

The finalization of the New Source Performance Standards rules from the EPA for greenhouse gas emissions this week will represent the latest and perhaps the most damaging barrage in this war on jobs. This regulatory carbon tax is the keystone of a radical environmental agenda, the disastrous results of which are already known in my district of central and eastern Kentucky. The consequences of these regulations have echoed throughout the hills of Appalachia, and they will reverberate across the country in years to come.

The New Source Performance Standards will finish the job that a deadlocked permitting process and multibillion-dollar regulations like Utility MACT have started: killing the coal industry and driving up the cost of energy, a top-line budget item for families already struggling to get by in this President's economy. 

But then, no one should be surprised. This is the one promise the President made and has kept. When running in 2008, President Obama, then Candidate Obama, said his policies would make the cost of electricity "necessarily skyrocket.'' More recently, White House climate adviser Daniel Schrag recently admitted this administration's previously only thinly veiled position. Mr. Schrag said, famously now, "a war on coal is exactly what's needed.''

Mr. Speaker, I can't think of another example of a Presidential administration pledging to put hardworking Americans in a centuries' old industry totally out of work, apparently for the crime of providing low-cost energy that drives the engine of our economy. 

The damage of these policies is already clear in Kentucky. Just yesterday, another 525 coal miners employed at three eastern Kentucky mines operated by the James River Coal Company were given pink slips. My heart goes out to these miners and to their families. And I have met some of these people. They're just trying to follow their ancestors by digging up a piece of the American Dream in the Appalachian foothills. 

Last month, the Commonwealth of Kentucky released statistics on the health of the coal industry for the second quarter of this year, and the story they tell is dire, even before yesterday's news of another 525 layoffs. Eastern Kentucky coal mines facing the brunt of this President's regulatory overreach shed another 851 jobs last quarter, leaving the total number of Kentucky employed at the mines at just 12,342. That is the lowest number since Kentucky began keeping such statistics in 1927. Eastern Kentucky coal production is down a whopping 41.4 percent in just the last 2 years. And with those reductions, we have lost over 5,700 mining jobs. 

And now the New Source Performance Standards will prohibit coal from even competing in the energy marketplace, even though the final regulations have now been delayed a year due to industry and public opposition, as so often before this administration has brushed those concerns aside and proceeded apace. The EPA even forecasts, given the regulatory environment, that there will be no new coal plants built after this year. 

Rather than phasing in rules to allow all types of fuel to adapt, these regulations on new and existing plants single out coal, stifling the promise of carbon capture in its crib, a technology that could have provided the United States with a revolutionary technology on the magnitude of hydraulic fracturing that could have changed the course and shape of our economy, driven exports, and paid real benefits in terms of carbon emissions reductions. Instead, the United States will endure unilateral economic disarmament while our international competitors continue to pursue growth-oriented energy policies. 

Over the next few years as these policies take hold, the rest of the country will be made aware of this disaster that is already taking place in Appalachia. Already, one-fifth of the Nation's coal-fired plants--204 plants across 25 States--closed between 2009 and 2012. The rest will shutter prematurely in the years following implementation of the New Source Performance Standards. 

Seven EPA regulations already proposed over the last 4 years are forecast to cost $16.7 billion annually once fully implemented. The New Source Performance Standards will trump even that figure, constituting the largest energy tax of all time implemented by regulatory fiat without the consent of the people's elected representatives in Congress. That's because this President's own party couldn't enact this radical environmental agenda through cap-and-trade in the first 2 years of this President's administration. 

The loss of 69,000 megawatts of coal-fired power will ripple through the economy, costing an estimated 887,000 jobs in the mining, utility, shipping, and manufacturing sectors per year. The President had pledged to spur growth in manufacturing, and low energy costs at home coupled with rising wages in countries like China and India promised to restore our competitive advantage in manufacturing. But the New Source Performance Standards will quickly put an end to those prospects. 

Mr. Speaker, the United States has 250 years' worth of coal reserves at current consumption rates that could, if utilized, provide affordable energy and high-tech manufacturing feedstocks. But the President isn't interested in playing this ace up America's sleeve. Instead, he wants to stay the course on a disastrous energy rationing policy that has already put thousands in the unemployment lines in my neck of the woods in Kentucky and all throughout central Appalachia and will put hundreds of thousands of more hardworking Americans there in the years to come.

So I urge the President to abandon these disastrous, job-killing policies and to come to Congress to work on a plan that will relieve energy costs for our families. Put the American people back to work and protect the environment. Otherwise, this week's announcement of these New Source Performance Standards will demonstrate a willful denial of these ambitions and a ruthless attack on a centuries-old industry that has provided jobs and economic opportunity for thousands of Americans.

I want to end my comments this evening by telling a story that illustrates the human cost and the human dimension of this administration's war on coal. 

In the eastern edge of my district sits a small town of Campton, Kentucky, in Wolfe County, Kentucky. When I was home during the August recess, I went there and had a town hall meeting to listen to the concerns of people who are struggling.

I met a young woman by the name of Sally. She came up to me after a town hall meeting with tears welling up in her eyes. She looked at me and she said, my husband just lost his job in the coal mines--he's a coal miner. He lost his job because the Environmental Protection Agency would not issue a coal mining permit to his employer. As a result, they had to lay off all of the coal miners, including my husband--is what this woman told me.

She said, Here's the problem: My children need to go back to school. It's August, and it's time to go back to school. They're growing up, and they don't have shoes, they've grown out of their shoes. And so I don't know what to do because we can't afford shoes. So I went ahead and bought them flip-flops so they wouldn't be embarrassed to go back to school.

Imagine that, politicians and bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., putting this working family in central Appalachia in that kind of economic distress so that they can't even afford shoes for their children. I don't care if you're a Republican or a Democrat, a supporter of this administration or not, it is fundamentally wrong, it is fundamentally immoral for the Federal Government to put working American families into economic distress.

So I call on my colleagues in Congress to stand firm and stand in opposition to this radical agenda, which is destroying jobs, destroying opportunity, and destroying the American Dream.