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Coal country concerned about Pres. Obama’s push for power plant restrictions

By Meredith Machen, mmachen@wcyb.com
Published On: Jun 25 2013 09:33:45 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 25 2013 09:35:25 AM CDT

Some are calling it another blow to the coal industry. Tuesday, President Obama outlined a new executive initiative to combat climate change that includes restrictions for coal-fired power plants and boosting renewable energy production.

Some are calling it another blow to the coal industry. Tuesday, President Obama outlined a new executive initiative to combat climate change that includes restrictions for coal-fired power plants and boosting renewable energy production.

"It's not right. It's not safe, and it needs to stop," President Obama said from Georgetown University Tuesday afternoon.

In his address, the President ordered a crackdown on pollution that could have a steep impact in the heart of Appalachia.

By his own mandate, President Obama is requesting the Environmental Protection Agency enact federal regulations on just how much carbon can be emitted from existing and new coal-fired power plants. "We limit the amount of toxic chemical like mercury and sulfur and arsenic in the air or our water, but power plants can still dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution in the air for free," President Obama said during his address.

First District Virginia House Delegate Terry Kilgore (R) is one of many local lawmakers who says the impact could cripple our region. "I think the administration is trying to completely take coal out of the picture, and by applying this law, or attempting to apply this law, to existing power plants, it's going to have a very dramatic effect on the coal industry," said Kilgore.

Wise County, Virginia Finance Administrator David Cox is already seeing the impact of a struggling coal economy. In 2012 we learned Wise County collected $13.1 million in coal severance taxes, but leaders expect only $8 million for the next fiscal year -- that's a $5 million decrease. "It's a huge amount for our locality because all the needs we have with the county. Our school projects under construction, we have debt service needs, we have so many financial needs for the county," said Cox.

The fears hit especially close to home for those who work in the mines. Coal miner Jeffery Bolling said, "I'm definitely concerned because you never know from one day to the next whether you're going to have a job or not."

But the fight against this so-called 'war on coal' isn't over. News 5 spoke with the Attorney General of Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli, by phone. He told us if the administration is stepping over its bounds, he will sue. "Absolutely. We'll push back immediately whether it's here in the Attorney General's office or if it's after the election, and I'm fortunate enough to win the governor's office," Cuccinelli said.

Click here to read statements from local politicians about the changes.