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The forum took place at the Charleston Marriott at 9 a.m.

By Andrea Lannom
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Several speakers during Wednesday’s annual coal forum in Charleston urged the passage of a bill, which would put controls on the Environmental Protection Agency.

This comes on the heels of the EPA’s new air quality rules, which would limit the coal mining industry.

One of the main concerns speakers had is the potential shut downs along with the loss of jobs associated with the closures, that these limitations would cause.

“Coal is critical to keep our manufacturing sector competitive and to keep access to affordable power,” Jeff Herholdt from the West Virginia Division of Energy, said during Wednesday’s forum.

Herholdt explained that if these air regulations took affect, 8 percent of coal demand would be lost.

“We are seeing new investments in West Virginia that will continue the demand for coal,” he said, noting a new power plant coming online in Monongalia County, which he says will be “one of the cleanest plants in the country.

“This is a model for future coal development,” he said.

Two other speakers, Cecil Roberts, from the UMWA and Bill Raney from the West Virginia Coal Association, said the loss of jobs could be devastating.

“This is not just an issue of some coal miners in West Virginia,” Roberts said. “This is a broad issue of people making a living off of coal across the country.”

“This is ridiculous when the economy is in shambles,” Raney said.

Roberts noted the struggle of many Americans who are either unemployed or “underemployed.”

“I tell them that they can get a good job in the American coal industry,” he said. “Everywhere I go in northern West Virginia, I see someone who looks like my grandson mining coal.”

The amount of time to retrofit existing plants could also be a concern, says international energy air expert Gene Trisko.

According to Trisco, there would only be 36 months to install hundreds of retrofitted controlled devices in existing plants.

Trisco then mentioned a question he posed to the EPA about these regulations.

“The first question was, ‘could you please identify units in the database that meet these emission standards?’ It was a short answer. Zero,” he said.

“This rule is twice as expensive as any air pollution rule ever proposed by the EPA,” he said, noting an $11 billion a year price tag. “When we go into regulatory impact analysis, where are the benefits coming from?”

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