The United Mine Workers of America is blasting the Obama administration’s new proposal for controlling greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants, which will likely contribute to the loss of coal mining jobs.
“The UMWA has not and does not dispute the science regarding climate change,” Cecil Roberts, the group’s international president, said in a statement this week.
“Our dispute is with how our government is going about addressing it, and on whom the administration is placing the greatest burden in dealing with this challenge,” he added.
Roberts said the rule would lead to “long-term and irreversible job losses.” The union says it calculated the potential direct coal generation job losses at 75,000 by 2020.
“This is simply a recipe for disaster in America’s coalfields, especially the eastern coalfields. That is where the hammer of this rule will fall the hardest,” Roberts said.
“And it’s not just that these jobs will be lost,” he added, “it’s that the ability of companies to continue funding pension and retiree health care benefits will be at great risk.”
U.S. EPA’s Regulatory Impact Analysis for the proposal does include significant coal-related job losses. But it also touts job increases in sectors like natural gas, renewables and energy effi ciency.
Roberts responded, “I don’t know how one can actually count jobs that do not yet exist, but I do know this: the jobs that will be lost are among the best paying blue-collar jobs in America, especially in the mostly rural areas of the country where the coalfi elds are.”
From the point of view of many environmental advocates, states like Kentucky and West Virginia need to begin transitioning away from their reliance on coal mining jobs.
But while they have agreed with the UMWA on promoting miner safety, environmentalists generally don’t agree on the necessity of finding pathways to keep coal a part of the country’s generating portfolio.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the proposal will help preserve coal by giving the industry regulatory certainty. But Roberts, touting the sacrifice of miners for U.S. energy, said their “reward is to be kicked to the curb, hopefully out of sight and soon forgotten.”
The union backed President Obama’s election in 2008. The administration’s actions have cooled its support significantly.
“I assure you, if that is the choice before us, we will not go quietly,” Roberts said. “We will not be out of sight. We will not be forgotten. You will hear from us.”