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Administration does not consider miners, families

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Gil White Gil White
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Gil White is state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, West Virginia’s leading small-business association, with 1,600 dues-paying members representing a cross section of the state’s economy.

At last count, there were 264 coal mines in West Virginia. Together, they employed 22,786 people. Thousands more provide for their own families by working at small businesses that cater to these miners or support the coal industry in some way.

If the Obama administration gets its way, these mines and these jobs will go away, and everyone else — even those who don’t depend directly on the coal industry for their livelihoods — will be hurt as electricity costs skyrocket.

Clearly, the bureaucrats have failed to think things through.

I don’t think anyone in this administration has thought about the miners or their families. I expect the government to spend a little money on workforce training to help the displaced miners find new jobs, but there are no jobs. The unemployment rate in coal country is among the highest in the state.

On top of that, families and small businesses will end up paying more to keep the lights on.

In its proposed rule, the Environmental Protection Agency says power plants must reduce carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030, as compared with emissions levels in 2005, but that’s just an average. The target level varies by state. Some states need to reduce emissions even more. Under the agency’s proposal, West Virginia would have to reduce emissions by 19.8 percent.

The EPA would let each state decide how to achieve its goal, most likely by using a system called “cap and trade,” which is something the Obama administration tried — and failed — to get through Congress several years ago.

Without getting bogged down in the details, cap and trade means the government would set a cap on emissions but allow plants to trade the emission levels needed to achieve the state’s goal. For example, if West Virginia needs to reduce emissions by 19.8 percent, then one plant may agree to reduce its emissions by more so another can lessen its emissions by less.

Whichever approach the state uses, the cost of electricity would increase as power companies pass along the additional costs to their customers in the form of higher rates. The EPA estimates it will cost power companies $8.8 billion a year to comply with its proposed regulations.

Higher energy costs would hurt everyone, but they would be especially harmful to small businesses. Even before the administration proposed its new rules, energy costs ranked as one of the three biggest challenges facing small businesses, according to the most recent National Federation of Independent Business survey, “Small Business Problems and Priorities.”

In order to create an environment that supports families and small businesses and helps create jobs, this Obama administration needs to expand our energy options, not limit them. If the administration is allowed to impose these drastic new rules on coal, then I’m afraid it will be lights out for West Virginia.