Consol, Murray blast Obama climate plan

WHEELING – Upper Ohio Valley coal mine operators prepared for the worst Tuesday while listening to President Barack Obama speak about carbon emissions from the campus of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

“Today’s announcement simply does not align with our economic or national security interests,” said Consol spokeswoman Lynn Seay, reacting to the president’s climate change plan.

She noted her company believes the plan will “choke off economic activity, impair our global competitiveness and ship manufacturing and other jobs overseas.”

Consol operates the Shoemaker and McElroy coal mines in Marshall County, as well as several other mines throughout Appalachia.

“Consol Energy is not aware of any credible assessment showing unilateral action or fuel switching in the United States will materially change the global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide,” Seay added.

Robert E. Murray, founder and chief executive officer of Murray Energy, operates the Century Mine and Powhatan No. 6 Mine in Belmont and Monroe counties in Ohio. Murray said Obama wants to see states with high percentages of Democratic voters – such as California, New York and Massachusetts – prosper at the expense of more politically balanced states such as Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Murray has long said Obama and his fellow Democrats are waging a “war on coal.”

“President Obama’s proposal is yet another attempt to decimate the United States coal industry – and destroy the thousands of good-paying, well-benefited jobs the industry provides,” Murray said Tuesday, noting he believes the plan will “destroy the lives and standards of living for many Americans.”

Obama said in a statement that he was no longer willing to wait on Congress to act to reduce carbon emissions, so he will direct the Environmental Protection Agency to do so.

“My administration is taking steps to cut carbon pollution, prepare our nation for the unavoidable impact of climate change and put America’s best and brightest to work to solve this issue on a global scale,” the president stated. “We owe it to our children and grandchildren to take action – and now is the time.”

American Electric Power provides coal-fired electricity to residents in Ohio, Marshall, Belmont, Jefferson, Harrison and Monroe counties and many other regions of the nation, with much of this power generated at the Kammer and Mitchell plants in Marshall County and the Cardinal Plant in Jefferson County. AEP spokeswoman Melissa McHenry said Tuesday that her company has “concerns about over-dependence on energy efficiency and choosing technology winners and losers through subsidies.”

Although many predict electricity costs will balloon out of control because of Obama’s policies, McHenry said AEP believes some of this can be resolved without such a dramatic impact.

“The focus on resilience, clean coal technologies, electric vehicles, energy efficiency and transmission investment demonstrates that the administration is looking at a full portfolio of actions to address the issue – not just cutting emissions from power plants,” she said.

FirstEnergy provides power to residents of Hancock, Brooke, Wetzel and Tyler counties residents through its Mon Power subsidiary. Spokeswoman Stephanie Thornton said FirstEnergy is already on track to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 18 percent by 2015, which she said would actually exceed Obama’s requirements.

“The company also has plans to invest approximately $925 million in additional environmental controls at its fossil units over the next several years,” Thornton said.

Kathryn Klaber, chief executive officer of the Pennsylvania-based Marcellus Shale Coalition, said Obama’s plan could be positive news for the region’s oil and natural gas businesses. The coalition represents drillers such as Chevron, Chesapeake Energy, Range Resources and several others.

“We are pleased that President Obama once again underscored the clear environmental and economic benefits tied to the safe development of clean-burning natural gas,” she said. “We remain focused as an industry on protecting and enhancing our environment through the responsible development of job-creating American natural gas, which is reinvigorating our manufacturing base and creating enormous benefits.”