Senator McConnell Delivers Energy Speech to Kentucky Coal Association

By:  Mitch McConnell
Date: June 1, 2011
Location: Lexington, KY

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on Wednesday to the Kentucky Coal Association:

"Thank you, Scott. I want to start by thanking you all for coming.

"I'm not sure if you followed this, but Congress extended the PATRIOT Act last week that provides monitoring tools for the Administration to fight terrorism. I only mention that because I've heard EPA is interpreting the legislation to mean they can eavesdrop on any room with three or more energy providers to ensure nobody is doing any business. So watch what you say and please make sure to wipe your shoes off at the door. If anyone tracked any dust in here they'll bust in and shut the place down.

"People in Washington are always looking for alternatives to coal. What they don't seem to realize, as my friend David Williams has said, is that the alternative to coal…is darkness.

"As bright as Kentucky's future can be, in the current climate it sometimes seems that that the future for Kentucky coal is very dark, indeed. Although the Democrats in Washington, the Obama Administration, and Lisa Jackson and the EPA will never say so, the truth is obvious. They have declared war on Kentucky's coal industry.

"The EPA retroactively "reinterpreted" its regulations and withdrew a Section 404 permit previously issued by the Army Corps of Engineers to a mine in southern West Virginia, shutting it down and throwing 90 miners out of work. Every mine in Kentucky is similarly threatened.

"The EPA declared even more permit applications to be under enhanced review, in effect playing a "run out the clock" game and putting many Kentucky mining operations in limbo, along with the economic activity mining could create.

"The EPA's actions defy logic. Not only are they changing the rules in the middle of the game, they are retroactively changing rules to shut down mines they've already approved. No mine, regardless of whether it has been operating for years in full compliance of every rule and regulation, can be assured that the Obama Administration won't come calling to shut them down.

"The EPA has taken any sense of regulatory certainty away--all without a single vote or hearing in Congress.

"What EPA is doing is outside the scope of its authority and the law, and it represents a fundamental departure from the permitting process as originally envisioned by Congress. And it's time for Congress to rein the EPA in.

"That's why I'm fighting for the Senate to pass the Mining Jobs Protection Act, a bill I'm joined in sponsoring with Senators Rand Paul and James Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee.

"The Mining Jobs Protection Act will tell EPA that they need to act within a reasonable time frame and give permit applicants the certainty they need to do business. And it would ensure that all 404 permits move forward to be either approved or rejected, so applicants aren't left in limbo, unsure how to proceed.

"You know, in this era of trillion-dollar budgets and trillion-dollar deficits, I like to remind my colleagues in Washington what the root of the problem is. It's that Washington spends too much. It's not that the American people aren't taxed enough.

"But the EPA disagrees! And they want to impose a backdoor national energy tax on the American people, by regulating carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants using the Clean Air Act.

"Their national energy tax would hit you every time you start your car or turn on a light bulb. It would endanger millions of jobs across the country and hurt an already fragile economy. And it directly targets Kentucky's coal industry, by making coal-fired power more expensive.

"If Kentuckians have any money left over after all this, EPA will come after it as well.

"I'm sure many of you read the news last week that both LG&E and Kentucky Utilities will be raising customers' bills as a direct result of the train wreck of regulations coming from the Agency. Rates are going to go up on Kentucky families by 19 percent--nearly a fifth--by 2016.

"And thanks to EPA's regulations, the power companies are floating the idea of abandoning some of their coal-burning power stations altogether.

"Of course the EPA's real goal here is not to see the Kentucky coal industry comply with its boatload of regulations and red tape. It is to see the Kentucky coal industry driven out of business altogether.

"Coal employs 18,000 people in the Bluegrass State, and another 198,000 Kentucky jobs directly depend on the coal industry. Coal brings in more than three and a half billion dollars from out of state, and pays more than one billion dollars in direct wages every year. All of that is at stake in the administration's war on coal.

"But it's not surprising that the EPA, the administration, and the Democrats in Washington don't have any answers when you ask them why they're waging this attack on Kentucky's livelihood. When it comes to energy, they have very few answers. Just look at their response to these gas prices.

"The high price at the pump is the number-one concern for many across America today. Record high gas prices are straining wallets, squeezing family budgets, putting pressure on struggling businesses, and slowing job growth.

"What is the Democrats' solution? Well, recently they proposed raising taxes on American energy production. If you're curious how that could possibly lower prices at the pump, you've got reason for suspicion. Even several of my Democratic colleagues in the Senate admitted that it wouldn't.

"If they had their way, gas stations will have to replace the credit card slot with one for your 401K.

"Raising taxes on energy producers by $21 billion over 10 years won't do anything about the pain at the pump. But it will outsource energy jobs and make America more dependent on foreign oil.

"That's not only my view; it's also the view of the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, which concluded that the Democrats' proposal would "likely increase foreign dependence."

"This proposal, more a political stunt than a real solution, rightfully went down to defeat in the Senate.

"Unfortunately, so did a real-world alternative plan I proposed to actually increase our domestic energy production.

"My plan would have returned American offshore energy production to where it was before the Obama Administration clamped down on American energy.

"And it would have ripped away the red tape that has hindered American energy production by putting reasonable time limits on the review process for drilling permits.

"But this proposal failed to get a single Democratic vote in the Senate. First the Democrats vote to tax energy production. Then they turn around and vote against more energy production.

"So what are the Democrats in Washington doing about gas prices again?

"If we don't have coal…and we don't have oil…and we don't have gas…what do they expect us to do?

"Attach sails to our cars and wait for the wind?

"They just don't get it.

"They've failed to give the American people any realistic solutions to this crisis of high fuel prices.

"They've failed to encourage the economic growth and the job production that we could have if it weren't for the train wreck of rules and regulations tying you down.

"And they've failed to answer the American people's call for greater domestic energy production--because we cannot just rely on solar, wind, or other energy sources that may be viable in the future, but can't come close to fulfilling this country's energy needs today.

"We must take an "all of the above" approach to domestic energy production. That means taking advantage of coal, oil, shale, natural gas--and yes, wind, solar and other emerging technologies. Every domestic energy resource we can use.

"A real-world strategy like this is the only thing that can succeed. Because most Americans still drive their cars to work. And they're not solar- or wind-powered, yet.

"Addressing high gas prices, creating jobs, and lessening our dependence on foreign sources of oil is exactly what both parties in government should be working to accomplish.

"With four-dollar-a-gallon gas, sky-high unemployment, and instability in the Middle East, it's way past time for the Democrats in Washington to explain why they're not interested.

"And it is time the Democrats in Washington stop accusing Kentucky coal producers of being part of the problem, and start looking at Kentucky coal producers as part of the solution to our domestic energy, jobs and economic crises.

"Thank you."