Fighting back against Obama’s attacks on coal

By W.Va. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey

When then-Senator Barack Obama was running for president in 2008, he told The San Francisco Chronicle that, if elected, he would use the power of the presidency to “bankrupt” the coal industry. Since 2008, President Obama has attempted to satisfy this pledge by taking numerous illegal actions to attack coal using virtually every lever of the massive federal bureaucracy. We here in West Virginia know what it will mean if the president manages to carry out his threat to bankrupt coal: economic devastation for coal miners and their families, destruction of coal-mining communities, higher energy prices, and rolling blackouts.

When I ran for attorney general in 2012, I made a different kind of pledge: I promised to use the full authority of the office of the attorney general to fight back against the Obama administration’s attacks on our coal industry and coal miners. Since taking office, I have made it my office’s highest priority to successfully carry out this fight by teaming up with large, bipartisan coalitions of other attorneys general from around the country.

My office has already had several major successes in this critical area. Just last month, we led a nationwide, multistate coalition in the Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, successfully obtaining a nationwide stay against the administration’s rule drastically expanding the reach of the federal Clean Water Act. This rule would have had disastrous impacts on coal miners, farmers, homebuilders, contractors, retail establishments and public works projects. A couple of months before that, the United States Supreme Court agreed with our arguments that Obama’s EPA had overreached in regulating coal-fired power plants without considering the costs of those regulations.

Several of our other critical litigation efforts are ongoing. Most prominently, my office is leading a bipartisan coalition of 24 States suing to stop EPA’s cascade of regulations seeking to require states to reorganize the energy grid away from coal-fired generation. In what is commonly known as the “Section 111(d) Rule,” EPA is trying to force states to shutdown existing coal-fired power plants, on the inaccurate assumption that the affordable, reliable energy that those plants produce will be replaced by wind and solar energy. And in another, related rule, EPA is effectively prohibiting the construction of any new coal-fired power plants by mandating the use of costly, experimental technology, which has not been demonstrated as commercially viable anywhere in the world. We are suing to stop these illegal rules — these are worthwhile fights.

We are ready to meet more threats from this administration, which are around the corner. To take just one example, President Obama’s Office of Surface Mining recently proposed to adopt a disastrous rule relating to streams near mines. This rule is specifically designed to make coal-mining activity impossible, costing many thousands of coal-mining jobs. Accordingly, my office worked to lead a multistate letter thoroughly explaining the illegality of this rule. Make no mistake, if this rule is finalized in its present form, we will challenge it in court.

Opponents of West Virginia coal urge us to just give up and allow the president to fulfill his campaign pledge, given how much power his administration wields. But surrender is not the West Virginia way. For every illegal, anti-coal rule this administration finalizes, my office will bring a lawsuit, make the best possible arguments, and seek to achieve victory for the people of West Virginia. We have achieved some important successes so far and will do everything in our power to defeat the Obama administration in court.

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