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Energy debate in Washington causes friction for businesses, coal workers

by WHAS11


Posted on April 5, 2012 at 6:32 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 5 at 6:41 PM

(WHAS11) -- Will a shift away from coal-fired power plants result in all of us paying higher electric bills?

 LG&E is shifting away from coal to natural gas at several power plants. It's a move triggered by stricter federal environmental regulations in the Obama administration.
"If we are going to control our energy future, then we've got to have an all of the above strategy.  We've got to develop every source of American energy," Obama said.

But that "all of the above" energy strategy has one notable exception.

"We have a president right now who can't say the word 'coal,' when he talks about energy,” Bill Bissett, Kentucky Coal Association President, said. 

The coal industry has a powerful ally to speak up against EPA policy in the Obama administration.  The EPA reviews coal mining permits under the Clean Water Act.

“It's causing us to lose jobs, shutting down businesses…,” U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers said. “I call it strangulation by regulation.”

As chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Eastern Kentucky Congressman Hal Rogers has cut EPA administrator Lisa Jackson's budget. And, at a recent congressional hearing, demanded that she name one Kentucky coal permit issued since she took over.

The EPA says it has reviewed 38 of 110 mining permits during the Obama administration and that Jackson has approved six new mines. Jackson says the people of Appalachia deserve clean water.

 “That's what we're dealing with in eastern Kentucky,” Carl Shoupp, from Harlan County and a coal miner, said.

Opponents of strip mining in eastern Kentucky say the EPA under the Obama administration is simply doing its job.

"What's happening with the permits is that the EPA is finally, finally being able to do their job and scrutinize these permits to the fact that they are not destroying our streams and are not deliberately destroying our mountains and our communities,” Shoupp said. “And that's where the slowdown is; as far as I'm concerned.”

Last month, the EPA issued stricter greenhouse gas rules for new power plants.