By Dave Sutor
Two local congressmen referred to a "war on coal" in response to President Barack Obama's new climate change policy unveiled during a speech at Georgetown University on Tuesday.
Both Republican legislators, Reps. Keith Rothfus from Sewickley and Bill Shuster from Hollidaysburg, issued their statements after the president outlined a plan to address how the nation's energy policies impact the environment.
Obama directly discussed coal twice during his comments, which included calls for using less "dirty energy" along with discussion about the Keystone XL Pipeline, the melting Arctic ice cap, greenhouse gas emissions, Hurricane Sandy and other subjects.
In their responses, Rothfus and Shuster focused mainly on coal, a major industry in their districts, which include parts of Cambria and Somerset counties.
"This war on coal is a war on the middle class, a war on good-paying jobs and a war on American prosperity," said Rothfus, the 12th district's representative, during a speech on the House floor.
Shuster, in a written release, stated, "The president's continued "war on coal' is crushing families and destroying our economy. The administration refuses to accept that the coal industry employs over 760,000 Americans and helps to keep energy costs down. Instead, the president allows the EPA to run rampant with regulations that are putting the coal industry and hard-working Pennsylvanians out of business."
Obama called for ending public financing for new overseas coal plants unless they use carbon-capture technology or if poorer countries have no other viable way to produce electricity. The president also explained how the Department of Defense plans to install three gigawatts of renewable power on its bases, which could generate as much electricity as burning 3 million tons of coal.
The president described his vision of a "low-carbon, clean energy economy" serving as an engine for growth. He announced a plan to double the amount of energy produced from the wind and sun, while expanding the use of natural gas.
Obama also wants to limit the amount of carbon pollution power plants can dump.
"Today, about 40 percent of America's carbon pollution comes from our power plants," Obama said.
"But here's the thing: Right now, there are no federal limits to the amount of carbon pollution that those plants can pump into our air. None. Zero.
"We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury and sulfur and arsenic in our air or our water, but power plants can still dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air for free. That's not right. That's not safe. And it needs to stop."
Rothfus feels the president's proposals will negatively impact the economy in southwestern Pennsylvania.
"President Obama's new regulations will shutter coal mines and power plants," Rothfus said.
"It will raise energy costs and significantly impact moms and dads sitting around the kitchen table paying their monthly utility bills. It is time for President Obama to stop forcing Americans out of work and to stop giving a leg-up to foreign competitors like China. It is time for President Obama to take his hand off the dimmer switch for the American economy.
"It is time to end this war on low-cost American energy so that America can grow, prosper and shine brightly once again."
Even with their differences, Shuster, Rothfus and Obama all agreed upon the need for a national energy policy involving multiple sources of production.
"I am focused on an all-of-the-above energy plan that is going to benefit Pennsylvanians by creating jobs and lowering energy costs," said Shuster, the 9th district's representative.
"Shutting down the coal industry will not help our struggling economy. We need to increase our domestic energy production and keep American families working.
"I will continue to fight the administration's over-regulation of this vital industry and encourage the production of domestic energy resources."