McConnell Invites EPA Listening Tour to Kentucky’s Coal Country

Photograph by Ty Wright/Bloomberg

Coal miners during longwall mining operations in Wind Ridge, Pennsylvania.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is miffed that federal regulators aren’t going to visit the coal-dependent region of his home state Kentucky before setting new rules on greenhouse gases.

An 11-stop “listening tour” the Environmental Protection Agency is undertaking as part of its preparation for the first-ever rules on carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants includes stops in Seattle, San Francisco, New York and Boston.

Not on the list are major coal-producing states, and lawmakers participating in a rally on Capitol Hill today with miners and union workers said this shows the agency is deaf to the problems it’s creating in coal country.

“The EPA isn’t coming to your town, they aren’t coming to mine,” West Virginia Republican David McKinley said at the rally today. “But we are going to make sure they hear you.”

McConnell said he invited EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to visit the town of Pikeville in Eastern Kentucky before issuing any new regulations. Pikeville, which is luring tourists with its ties to the Hatfield & McCoy feud, was once the home of a Ford Motor Co. coal mine. Mines in Pike County produced 13 million tons of coal in 2012, down 60 percent from its peak in 1996 when it was the state’s top coal producer.

Relying on authority in the four-decade-old Clean Air Act and a 2007 Supreme Court decision applying the law to carbon-dioxide emissions, the EPA proposed rules limiting the carbon dioxide emitted by new power plants last month. The regulations will prevent the construction of new coal-fired plants that don’t install expensive carbon-capture technology.

The rules for existing plants won’t be that stringent, McCarthy has said. Still, after a series of other rules curbing mercury and sulfur-dioxide pollution, the net effect has been overwhelmingly difficult for coal producers and utilities, industry groups say.

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