American Energy Independence Executive Order is Good News for Kentucky Coal Communities

March 29, 2017

‘[T]he Obama Administration launched energy attack after energy attack on Kentucky and America’s middle class, threatening critical jobs and making coal more costly to mine and to use…Coal communities face enough challenges without Washington piling on more with these unreasonable attacks. Fortunately, we now have a president who will work with us to provide much-needed relief.’

 

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the Energy Independence Executive Order that President Trump plans to sign yesterday:

 “Throughout my career in the Senate, I’ve worked hard to defend coal communities and the jobs that they, and so many across the country, depend upon. These men and women have dedicated their lives to providing an affordable and reliable power source for our homes, businesses, and communities. They deserve our respect and our support. The same is true of America’s middle class more broadly. Middle-class families had a hard enough time the last eight years without Washington making things worse. I think they deserve respect and support, not fewer jobs and unaffordable energy bills.

“Unfortunately, the previous administration didn’t see things the same way. Instead, the Obama Administration launched energy attack after energy attack on Kentucky and America’s middle class, threatening critical jobs and making coal more costly to mine and to use.  Indeed, a couple years ago, then-President Obama finalized a massive, regressive energy regulatory scheme that claimed to be about helping the climate but actually would have done little to truly impact global emissions. What it would have done is punish coal families, ship middle-class jobs overseas, and hurt the economy. It was also likely illegal.

“So, I sent a letter counseling governors to wait for the courts to rule on the legality of the regulation before submitting a compliance plan. It was not a popular move at the time. Turns out, it was the right one. I’m glad that nearly half of our nation’s governors agreed with my advice to take a ‘wait and see’ approach before needlessly putting their states in economic jeopardy.  I’m proud to report that we will notch an important victory in this struggle later today.  I commend President Trump for the decision to sign the Energy Independence Executive Order and send several anti-middle class regulations back to the drawing board.

“From the outset, I warned that regulations like these would hurt coal workers and America’s middle class. One report predicted that more than 40 states could have seen double-digit electricity rate hikes as a result of the CPP energy regulatory plan. And we all know that low- and fixed-income families would have suffered the most.  And for what?  This regulation would hardly have moved the needle on the climate anyway.  Talk about bad policy.  It’s important to remember how we got here.

“President Obama came into office with huge majorities in both houses of Congress. He could’ve done virtually anything he wanted and certainly tried. He pushed through one left-wing policy after the other. He even tried to push through a regressive, anti-middle class energy regulatory plan — one so extreme that he couldn’t even get his own Democrat-controlled Congress to go along with it. Undeterred, he went around Congress and imposed a similarly regressive energy scheme anyway.

“It was evident that the Obama Administration had overstepped its authority. That’s why I sent the letter I mentioned earlier to the nation’s governors urging them not to comply with the CPP’s demands, but to instead take a ‘wait and see’ approach before putting their states into economic jeopardy.  Because of the legal uncertainty of President Obama’s plan, 27 states joined the fight in federal court. In February 2016, the Supreme Court issued an unprecedented nationwide halt on this regulation.

“Despite the Court’s order, the damage of President Obama’s ‘War on Coal’ has already negatively impacted middle-class families across the country and coal communities in Kentucky. When plants shut down and miners lose their jobs, the entire community feels the pain. With less tax revenue, local governments are unable to pay teachers and first responders. These hardships often lead to the rise of crime and drug abuse that trouble these communities.

“Moreover, the Obama Administration’s massive regulatory burdens were imposed during a period when production and supply of natural gas had been high and its costs relatively low — a devastating one-two punch to families already struggling to make it.  To make matters worse, President Obama didn’t stop at the CPP; he also sought to impose similar limitations on any new plants in an attempt to prevent them from being built. It’s an equally concerning regulation, and one that would have further devastated coal communities. I’m glad President Trump will include it in his executive order today.

“Coal communities face enough challenges without Washington piling on more with these unreasonable attacks. Fortunately, we now have a president who will work with us to provide much-needed relief. Today’s executive order is good news for coal communities, it’s a victory for middle class families, and it’s another important step away from the overregulation of the Obama years.

“We all want clean air and clean water. But that’s not what President Obama’s energy regulatory policies were actually about. It was an ideological vanity project. It wouldn’t have even solved the problem it purported to address.

“Fortunately, the EPA will now have the opportunity to go back to the drawing board and get this right with balanced and serious policies. The EPA should work with stakeholders across the country to develop sensible policies that balance the economic needs of our communities with the realities of the environment. This way, we can protect America’s middle class, America’s miners, and America’s natural resources — all at once.”

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