With his letter to the nation's governors about the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed greenhouse gas regulations, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has succeeded in drawing criticism from the Obama administration, The New York Times editorial page, California Gov. Jerry Brown, anti-coal activists, and, with its April 14 editorial, the Herald-Leader.
With these kind of critics, two facts are clear: McConnell is fulfilling his 2014 campaign promise of doing all he can to fight for Kentucky coal, and he is angering the right people: those completely out of step with the vast majority of Kentuckians.
What McConnell is suggesting is simple. With the proposed regulations, states are supposed to submit implementation plans detailing how they will implement new regulations. Given the very shaky legal footing that these proposed regulations are on and given that it is a real possibility that they will never be implemented, McConnell is asking governors to not submit a plan.
In short, his suggestion is to "just say no" to these proposed regulations. Supporters of these proposed regulations will contend that not submitting a plan might lead to a federally imposed plan, but this caution is unwarranted.
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With the deadline to submit any plan more than a year away and with the opportunity to obtain an extension, it is in the best interest of any state that supports the use of coal to not only wait until the deadline but also to extend it by any means possible.
This course of action would allow the courts to determine the legality of the proposed regulations before states make commitments to undertake costly and unnecessary control measures. To fail to request an extension beyond that deadline would constitute capitulation to the Obama administration's plan to limit emissions by increasing the cost of electricity derived from the use of coal.
It is good news for all Kentuckians that, as of this time, every major candidate in Kentucky's 2015 race for governor is against these regulations. From public statements to litigation against the Environmental Protection Agency on this very issue, the candidates are clear in their steadfast opposition, and we should all thank them for standing up for the low-cost, reliable electricity derived from coal that powers more than nine out of 10 jobs in our commonwealth.
To those of us who advocate for the use of coal as an electricity source, these proposed regulations are the most damaging policy issue to face our industry in more than four decades. While we believe they will harm the entire economy of our country, make our access to electricity less reliable and destroy our domestic market for coal, the most wrongheaded aspect of the proposed regulations is that they would do nothing to affect the global issue of climate change.
Regardless of where one stands on climate change, the facts are that the United States, through its use of coal, produces only 3 percent of the world's man-made carbon emissions.
Even if we took every coal power plant in the United States offline tomorrow, it would only decrease man-made carbon emissions by three percent. This decrease in carbon emissions would be quickly replaced by emissions from new coal power plants being constructed in emerging and traditional economies, such as China, India, Spain, Germany and Japan. Simply put, President Barack Obama and his Environmental Protection Agency would be damaging our economy and putting at risk our access to electricity without addressing the issue of climate change.
It goes beyond bad public policy to a unilateral attempt to be the world's leader when no one is following your lead.
Winston Churchill once said, "You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something."
McConnell is standing up for Kentucky coal, and I doubt he cares that folks in New York or California are complaining about him.
On behalf of our coal miners and the more than 4 million Kentuckians who benefit from coal-powered electricity, we thank him for his continued efforts.