Coal-Industry Jobs Focus of Public Hearing Hosted by Reese
LATROBE – Rep. Mike Reese (R-Fayette/Westmoreland) today hosted a bipartisan public hearing of the House Majority Policy Committee to examine the impact of federal environmental regulations on Pennsylvania’s coal industry, energy production and energy-industry employment.
“If you ask any American to identify the biggest problem facing the nation, the vast majority will answer unemployment,” said Reese. “It is vital that we in Pennsylvania work with the federal government to protect our coal-industry jobs. We must find a balance between environmental safety and energy production. Coal has provided energy for Pennsylvania and the entire East Coast for decades, and it must continue to have a prominent place in our energy portfolio. Nearly 50 percent of our power grid is supplied by coal, and this industry provides thousands of good-paying jobs for Pennsylvanians.”
The hearing, which was prompted by the closing of the coal-fired Armstrong Power Station near Kittanning, drew participants from the United Mine Workers Association of America, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy, and other coal-industry and energy-sector representatives.
House Majority Policy Committee Chairman Dave Reed (R-Indiana) noted that the closure of a power plant does not only impact the workers of that plant, but also eliminates the jobs of coal-mine workers and employees in other related industries.
Eugene Trisko, consultant with the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, testified about the hundreds of thousands of jobs that will be lost and billions of dollars that will be spent to comply with the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Rule (MATS). In Pennsylvania, this will amount to more than 10,000 jobs lost. MATS also will increase energy costs for Commonwealth families and businesses.
Members questioned Trisko on the wisdom of imposing these standards during the worst recession in recent memory.
“The portion of after-tax household income devoted to energy by households earning less than $50,000 has roughly doubled, from 11 percent to 21 percent,” said Trisko. “When the cost of a necessity such as energy doubles as a percent of after-tax income, something else has to give – housing, food, health care, child care or other essentials. Increased energy costs should be of particular concern to policymakers in an era of declining real incomes and persistent high unemployment.”
Former Sen. John Pippy, chief executive officer for the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance, which represents 41,000 employees in the coal industry, testified about the important place of coal in energy production and energy-sector employment.
“If you want to rebuild this economy, it needs to be built on domestic energy and energy independence,” said Pippy. Speaking of the need for state government to partner with the coal industry, he said, “Working together, we can improve the economic situation of Pennsylvanians.”
Lamenting about the closure of the Armstrong Power Station, Robert T. Whalen, president of System Local 102, Utility Workers Union of America, said, “In its previous state, Armstrong could have continued to produce electricity at a cost-effective rate and enhanced service reliability to the residents and businesses of Pennsylvania until 2015 without any upgrades. Armstrong Power Station had many of its critical components rebuilt or replaced in the late 1990s and early 2000s, restoring it to like-new condition. With the addition of air cleaning equipment or other technology, Armstrong would have produced electricity for many years into the future.”
Other testifiers at the hearing included Ed Yankovich, International District vice president for District 2 of the United Mine Workers Association of America; Carl Wood, director of regulatory affairs for the Utility Workers Union of America; Mike Welsh, international representative for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; and Doug Biden, president of the Electric Power Generation Association.
House members who participated in the hearing included Reps. Bryan Barbin (D-Cambria), Jim Christiana (R-Beaver), George Dunbar (R-Westmoreland), Brian Ellis (R-Butler), Scott Hutchinson (R-Butler/Venango), William Kortz II (D-Allegheny), Timothy Krieger (R-Westmoreland), Jim Marshall (R-Beaver), Carl Walker Metzgar (R-Bedford/Somerset), Dan Moul (R-Adams/Franklin), Donna Oberlander (R-Armstrong/Clarion), Joseph A. Petrarca (D-Armstrong/Westmoreland), Jeff Pyle (R-Armstrong/Indiana), Rick Saccone (R-Allegheny/Washington), and Will Tallman (R-Adams/York).
More information about Reese and today’s hearing, including written testimony received by the House Majority Policy Committee, is available at www.RepReese.com
State Representative Mike Reese
59th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Raymond Smith