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The U.S. Senate won't stop the war on coal

Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed House bill 3409, the "Stop the War on Coal Act." The vote was 233 to 175, mostly along party lines.

However, 19 Democrats, including West Virginia's Nick Rahall, voted for the measure.

The legislation has five key sections, all aimed at reining in the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has been on a mission over the last four years to take coal out of the country's energy portfolio, even though President Obama insists he's following an "all of the above" strategy.

The Obama administration originally thought it could curb coal use through legislation. When the Congress failed to pass a cap-and-trade bill, the EPA took it upon itself to use the Clean Air Act to limit carbon emissions.

The new rules for carbon emissions will make it virtually impossible to build a coal-burning power plant in the future. That is a fulfillment of Obama's now infamous comment in San Francisco in 2008:

"If somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it's just that it will bankrupt them."

Congressman Rahall, in a floor speech Friday, aptly described the abuse of the Clean Air Act as a "regulatory perpetual motion machine from which rule after rule has rolled out with no regard for the condition of the economy or the effect those regulations would have on the livelihoods of American families."

Additionally, the EPA has exerted more control over the mine permitting process. Fortunately, the EPA has had its hand smacked more than once by the courts, which have found that the agency has overstepped its authority.

For a while, Rahall was reluctant to fuss too much publicly about the EPA because his office had to work closely with the agency on regulatory and permitting issues.

But now Rahall, who is running for re-election in a district that is hard-hit by the coal slowdown and regulatory morass, sounds like he's all in.

"Coal miners have risen up against their government before. They have marched on Washington before," Rahall said Friday.

"And if this EPA continues to turn a blind eye to the law to impose its anti-coal views, if it continues to unlawfully mess with our miners to cut off their paychecks and cut short their dreams, then I have a message for the EPA from the folks back home: You ain't seen nothing yet."

The Stop the War on Coal Act has no chance in the U.S. Senate. Coal critic Harry Reid will make sure of that.

Additionally, the legislation is more of a "message bill" designed to get congressmen on record before the election and to express public dissatisfaction with the EPA.

Of course EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson doesn't care a whit about the fate of the coal industry. Additionally, most of the clamoring is coming from states that the Obama campaign either has already written off, or believes it can win without coal miners.

The Republican-led House, with a few coal state Democrats, can pass legislation designed to harness the EPA every day, all day. It won't do any good.

The imperial assault on one of the nation's primary industries that supplies vital power to 40 percent of the country will continue as long as the current administration remains in power.

Kercheval is host of TalkLine, broadcast by the MetroNews Statewide Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. The show can be heard locally on WCHS 580 AM.


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