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Rural Blog: McConnell says environmental rules, not natural gas, mainly to blame for coal downturn

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) released a letter he sent to President-elect Donald Trump proposing ways the incoming administration can revitalize the region’s coal industry.

McConnell, who has blamed President Obama for coal’s downfall, said environmental regulations are largely to blame for the downturn in the industry and that natural gas is not the solution to the nation’s energy needs.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

“I have concerns about recent shifts away from coal infrastructure in favor of natural gas,” McConnell wrote. “Historically, natural-gas prices have fluctuated over time, and continuing to shift our infrastructure away from coal could have harmful lasting economic effects if gas prices shift back to the high levels experienced not long ago.”

Gas prices have become lower and more stable because of the huge increase in supply caused by horizontal hydraulic fracturing.

McConnell recommended repealing regulations, starting with the Stream Protection Rule, the Obama administration’s new regulation aimed at reducing water pollution from surface mining, Dylan Brown reports for Greenwire.

“McConnell asked Trump to bar enforcement of the rule by the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. He also asked Trump to support a resolution of disapproval. The Congressional Review Act allows Congress to strike any regulation within 60 days. Republicans have already started the process in the House.”

McConnell “urged Trump to stop the federal defense of the Clean Power Plan—carbon-emission limits for power plants—and the Waters of the U.S. regulation defining the federal regulatory reach over wetlands and waterways” under the Clean Water Act, Brown writes. “Trump has said he disapproves of both rules, and U.S. EPA regulations generally.”

“McConnell also asked Trump to maintain spending to help Kentucky and neighboring Appalachian states and to help keep the $90 million abandoned mine land pilot project for cleaning up old mines to spur economic development,” Brown writes. “He also asked for a long-term solution to the health care crisis facing thousands of retired union coal miners. McConnell, long an obstacle to the effort, recently declared he will push for reform.”

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The Rural Blog is a digest of events, trends, issues, ideas and journalism from and about rural America, from the IRJCI, based at the University of Kentucky. The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues is an extension program for rural journalists and news outlets. It takes no positions on issues and advocates only for strong news coverage, responsible commentary and things that make them possible, such as open-government laws. For more information see www.RuralJournalism.org.

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One Comment

  1. Kathi Whalen says:

    McConnell seems determined to keep the voters mis-informed. Kentuckians don’t want to forego their clean air and water, wildlife diversity and Eastern Kentucky’s natural beauty on the oft chance that lost coal jobs will return.

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