Lifted rules lift spirits in coal country

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - The country’s top environmental regulator removes restrictions on coal. Reaction among lawmakers on Capitol Hill breaks partially along party lines and the boundaries of coal country.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt wiped away President Obama’s Clean Power Plan with a stroke of his pen Tuesday, one day after he announced the Trump administrations’ decision.

“The EPA is no longer in the business of picking winners and losers,” he said Monday.

Most notably, Pruitt reversed emissions regulations proposed by the previous administration. They never went into effect, delayed by legal challenges.

Kentucky Republican Andy Barr says his state is already beginning to regrow lost coal jobs – a sector that’s headed steadily and dramatically downhill for decades. “This is another piece of the puzzle to re-energize the American economy, to liberate a new energy renaissance in this country, and to get the American people back to work,” he said.

Representing neighboring West Virginia, Republican Rep. Evan Jenkins said just the belief that regulation would be lifted reopened mines and brought back lost jobs. He said the government can’t leave the industry behind. “We should not turn our back, like the prior administration did on hard-working coal mines, and a reliable source of energy.”

Republican Rep. Sean Duffy’s district in Wisconsin is known for cheese not coal. But, he said most of the power that flows through the state can be traced back to coal country. He argues the regulation jeopardized thousands of jobs that draw heavily on electricity – like manufacturing… with no real benefit for the environment.

“This rule hasn’t been implemented yet, so we’re still going to make progress on cleaner renewable fuels, but we don’t shut down jobs,” he said explaining why he argues the change could benefit the environment.

But many on the left – especially from outside coal country – criticize the choice to roll back the regulations. It’s a shift they said carries few benefits and substantial environmental costs.

“I’ve been to coal country, and really good people work there,” said Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT).

But, Welch said rolling back the regulations will hurt the country’s ability to compete with China. He said that country is at the forefront of renewable energy development.

A member of the House Energy committee, Welch aruged technological advances and cheaper, cleaner alternatives are driving coal’s disappearance, not regulation. “[Supporters are] not going to change the math on the economy by really essentially pandering to a political point of view,” he said of the rollback.

The Republicans concede other factors are contributing to coal’s decline. But, Jenkins argues the looming regulatory threat did plenty to harm people, and would have done little measurable good for the environment.

Despite controlling the White House, Senate, and Congress, Republicans are struggling to fulfill pledges to scrap key elements of Obama’s legacy. But it took little effort to knockout the Clean Power Plan -- an executive order, not law.

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