Is a “War on Coal” in Ohio Fact or Fiction?
COLUMBUS, Ohio - In the final push of the presidential election, many Ohioans are being inundated with messages and signs claiming that a so-called "War on Coal" is killing jobs in coal country. But some groups - including the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council, as well as some individuals in the energy industry - are calling the campaign's bluff.
The claims are that stricter Environmental Protection Agency clean-air standards are hurting Ohio and other coal-producing states through lost jobs and higher utility prices.
Ed Good, legislative director for the Utility Workers Union of America, lives in southeast Ohio and is among those who say the "war on coal" is a myth, a well-funded misinformation campaign.
“Production is up, employment is up and exports are just exploding. The exports in 2011 - it was up 171 percent from 2002, so this “war on coal” campaign is very troubling for me, and I live in coal country.”
According to the Energy Information Administration, the United States is on track to ship record amounts of coal overseas this year.
President Obama and his Republican challenger, Gov. Mitt Romney, have been making appeals to voters in Ohio's 18 coal-producing counties in the final days leading up to the election. While Romney says EPA regulations are putting coal out of business, the Obama administration blames market forces.
Good says clean-air regulations are not impacting the coal market. He points to the fracking boom and the low cost of natural gas.
“Regulations are constant, and the regulations are not the issue. It goes back to market forces. We have some of these plants that have been upgraded that have met the clean-air standards that are idle because of that gas market.”
While some coal plants are being retired, others are being retrofitted with pollution controls. Good says the clean-air standards are creating jobs.
"The plant that I work at, for example, recently installed a $2 billion clean-air project that meant thousands of jobs in the trades, and also jobs at the plant to monitor and maintain the equipment."
According to an analysis of data by the nonpartisan West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, U.S. coal mining employment is much higher today that it was during the last decade. In fact, coal-mining employment today is higher than at any time from 1999 through 2008.