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Senator McConnell's Op-Ed on Rising Home Heating Prices


Location: Washington, DC

Winter may be coming to an end in Kentucky, but the memories of snowstorms, freezing temperatures, and the polar vortex are still fresh in our minds. When it comes to reliable utilities and sources of heat, this winter served as a reminder not to take these things for granted.

First, the fierce winter increased demand in Kentucky for propane, an energy source used to heat countless homes. The state's agriculture industry also relies heavily on propane. Increased demand caused prices to surge dramatically. One constituent wrote me that her family could not afford to turn up the house heat because propane was $4 a gallon, and it would cost them $2,000 to fill their tank.

The House of Representatives has passed a bill that would allow Kentucky to continue sped-up propane deliveries and help ease high prices. Kentucky would benefit greatly from this relief, and I support this measure and I'm working to see that the Senate passes it and sends it to the president's desk.

The recent cold snap is also a reminder of why the president's War on Coal puts everyone's home heating rates at risk. The EPA's onslaught of regulations has largely contributed to the shutdown of several coal-fired plants, and the regulations are also preventing new ones from being built. This means that when temperatures fall and demand for natural gas and its by-products--like propane--rises, prices will spike without coal around as a competitive, viable alternative to level out prices and provide Kentuckians with heat.

Case in point: I recently heard from one Kentucky farmer who sent me two of his electric bills. One was dated December 2008, one month before President Obama took office. It was for $46.70. The second bill, dated December 2013, was for $69.10--an increase of 48 percent. What a difference five years makes--same home address, different president.

But it's not just the president and his EPA who are targeting Kentucky coal. Recently the liberal Democrats who control the U.S. Senate held an overnight marathon session to make excuses for the administration's War on Coal. They talked incessantly but accomplished nothing--one news report called it "a lot of hot air about a lot of hot air."

It's disappointing that they would spend precious time focusing on energy issues but refuse to offer one single piece of legislation that could actually ease rising energy costs for the people they represent.

Instead, they should work with me to pass my legislation, the Saving Coal Jobs Act, which would prevent the EPA from running the coal industry out of business by regulating carbon on new and existing coal plants, and would also end the EPA's practice of sitting on mining permits. In short, this bill would ensure Kentucky is better prepared for winter weather going forward by allowing us to mine enough coal and ensuring we can actually use it to heat our homes.

Additionally, I call again on Senate Democrats to support my resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) against the latest EPA regulations, which completely circumvent Congress. The CRA would give Congress a say on the EPA's latest regulations on new coal-fired power plants by ensuring Congress holds a vote on them. This way, the voices of coal miners and Kentuckians who depend on coal will be heard.

Supporting the coal industry and saving coal jobs will help keep energy prices low by preserving coal as an important fuel source. Coal accounts for nearly 40 percent of our country's electricity, and an even higher percentage in Kentucky. Thousands of Kentuckians, in turn, rely on coal-fired electricity to heat their homes.

Because coal is so widely available in the Commonwealth, we have historically enjoyed lower electric rates--a significant carrot in attracting manufacturing jobs to the Bluegrass State. The president's anti-coal agenda threatens to raise our electric rates, and consequently the costs associated with heating homes throughout the Commonwealth.

Instead of attacking the coal industry, the president should work with Congress to utilize all of this country's available domestic resources to create jobs and meet America's energy needs. Severe winter weather, while unfortunate, serves as a reminder that coal is a God-given resource that must have a place in our nation's energy portfolio for the future. It defies common sense to turn away from it.

So if the president won't call off his War on Coal, Kentuckians can be assured I will call him out on it. And I will fight him every step of the way in his effort to cripple the coal industry and raise home heating prices for every Kentuckian.

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