PA legislators plead the case of coal

Coal-fired power plants, under increasing pressure to clean up their stacks, have friends in Pennsylvania legislators.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey and 12 of his Pennsylvania Congressional colleagues -- all Republicans -- have written to President Obama, urging him to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from finalizing rules to limit carbon emissions from new power plants.

They wrote that coal is extremely important to Pennsylvania's economy and is the state's single largest source of energy, and that the regulations will discourage the construction of new coal-fired power plants and the upgrading of existing facilities..

Joning Toomey are local congressmen Jim Gerlach, Pat Meehan and Joe Pitts, plus Lou Barletta, Charlie Dent, Mike Kelly, Tom Marino, Tim Murphy, Scott Perry, Keith Rothfus, Bill Shuster, and G.T. Thompson,

Their letter comes two days after the announcement that two Pennsylvania coal plants in Fayette and Washington counties will be closed. They are the Hatfield's Ferry plant in Masontown and the Mitchell plant in Courtney.  Owner First Energy said the decision was "based on the cost of compliance with current and future environmental regulations in conjunction with the continued low market price for electricity."

About 380 people will lose their jobs, according to a Toomey press release about the letter.

Here's the EPA site with more information about the proposed rule.

Here's the text of the legislators' letter:

We write to you to express our concern about the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) plans to issue greenhouse gas regulations for new electricity generating units. This standard represents an unprecedented move by the EPA under the Clean Air Act that, if implemented, will likely discourage the construction of new coal-fired power plants as well as the upgrading of existing facilities. This will adversely impact our state's economy by unfairly hindering the use of our single largest source of energy.

As you may know, the Pennsylvania coal industry has considerable historic significance and a large economic impact. Our state is the country's fourth largest producer of coal, and our coal mining industry alone generates nearly 50,000 direct and indirect jobs. Coal is used to generate approximately half of Pennsylvania's electricity, allowing the state to offer businesses and consumers affordable energy.

The EPA has estimated that adopting this rule would increase the cost of electricity from coal-fired power plants by as much as 80%. Such a cost increase would make coal-fired plants uneconomical, leading some to close and very likely stop the construction of new plants. This would hurt thousands of Pennsylvanians involved in the mining industry, and it would seriously harm our business climate and raise our household utility costs.

In this difficult economy, when so many people in our state and around the country are struggling to find work and pay their bills, the last thing we need is a policy that unnecessarily harms economic growth. We respectfully ask you to stop the EPA from finalizing this destructive proposal. We appreciate your consideration and look forward to your response.