Cumberland Times-News

July 27, 2013

Coal fighting back against Obama proposals

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — The Maryland coal industry, in tandem with the national industry and United Mine Workers, is pushing back against measures proposed by President Barack Obama that the industry and the UMW believe could put coal mining out of business in the United States.

“It’s everything this president has done ... and we felt like this latest speech was the beginning of ending the use of coal as an energy source in this country,” said Adrienne Ottaviani, executive director of the Maryland Coal Association.

It’s significant, Ottaviani said, that both the industry and the major coal union are on the same page in fighting Obama’s plan.

“We have good paying jobs with great benefits,” Ottaviani said, and those jobs are now in jeopardy.

The Obama plan is designed to slow global warming by reducing carbon emissions.

The end or severe reduction in coal production could have devastating effects on every community in the state, not only coal-producing communities, Ottaviani said.

About 200 to 300 people are employed in the Maryland industry, but for each direct coal job, at least three other jobs are produced, Ottaviani said.

All Maryland coal production is in Allegany and Garrett counties.

What’s more, coal is a relatively cheap source of energy. About 60 percent of Maryland lights are turned on through coal-fired power plants, Ottaviani said.

“It’s a battle, we need to start ... the effort to educate and inform,” Ottaviani said.

Ottaviani said there are also problems with state politicians. She said she remains floored by Gov. Martin O’Malley’s refusal to visit the coal-fired power plant at Warrior Run.

“His refusal to see an important part of a major industry in this state baffles me.”

A national online petition has been designed to allow people to express their views to the president.

The centerpiece of Obama’s plan is imposing the first-ever limits on carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. The program is designed to reduce the effects of climate change, but Ottaviani says that’s misguided.

Most of the carbon emissions are coming from the third world and China, Ottaviani said.

“It’s a sad day when we want to rely on countries that hate us and want to kill Americans, rather than U.S. companies producing reliable energy,” Ottaviani said. “It’s a battle for our existence.”

When the Obama administration first proposed the limits last year, the energy industry balked, arguing the EPA was being heavy-handed because it used the same standard for natural gas as for coal. The industry argued this would mean a moratorium on new coal plants because the technology needed to retrofit plants to meet the standard isn’t commercially available or cost-effective, according to the Associated Press.

“It means one thing to us, they don’t want to burn coal,” Ottaviani said. “This is an American issue. We need to stop the war on coal.”

The pro-coal petition can be found here:

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/end-his-assault-our-nation’s-coal-mining-families/8lygsMqp

The Maryland Coal Association’s most recent report may be found at: mdcoalassociation.com.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.