Rogers calls for hearing in Appalachia on new EPA power-plant rules

Coal-state representatives want federal environmental regulators to come to their states for public comments on tougher power-plant emissions.

U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers said he co-sponsored a resolution asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to hold "listening sessions" on the rules in the 10 states that get the highest percentage of their electricity from power plants that burn coal.

Those are Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, West Virginia, Utah and Wyoming, Rogers said in a news release.

Kentucky gets more than 90 percent of its electricity from coal-fired plants.

EPA plans to put out rules next year which limit carbon-dioxide emissions from existing power plants.

Such emissions are a major factor in global climate change because they trap heat in the atmosphere, scientists say.

The EPA has scheduled a series of 11 meetings to take public comment on the issue, but none are in the top coal-burning states, Rogers said.

"If the Environmental Protection Agency wants to hear from real stakeholders about its latest climate change initiative, the agency ought to include a public hearing stop in Central Appalachia," Rogers said in a release.

The region, which includes Eastern Kentucky, has a great deal at stake in the rules, Rogers said.

Natural gas burns more cleanly than coal, meaning limits in carbon emissions from existing plants could put coal at a disadvantage.

The EPA said the public hearings would "play an important role in helping EPA develop smart, cost-effective guidelines," Rogers noted.

Residents of Appalachia would love to contribute to that process, Rogers said, "without having to attend a hearing thousands of miles away."

The coal industry in Eastern Kentucky already has taken a pounding. Coal companies have laid off more than 6,000 people as production dropped sharply.

Environmental regulations have played a role in the downturn, but the very low price of natural gas has been the most significant factor, analysts have said.

The coal industry faces other pressures in Eastern Kentucky as well. One is that its production costs are relatively high, in part because the region has been mined for a century.