EPA's Pruitt says federal war on coal, energy over during Western Pennsylvania visit
A federal regulatory assault on energy is over, the new head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency told coal miners, CNX Coal Resources officials and others Thursday on a visit to Southwestern Pennsylvania.
"It's sad that a regulatory body, the federal government of the United States, would declare a war on our energy industry," EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said at Harvey Mine in Greene County.
That has come to an end, Pruitt announced to cheers from some in the crowd of about 50 people.
The promise left Eben McClay, 42, of Claysville, optimistic. He has worked for 10 years at the Bailey Mine Complex, which includes Harvey Mine. He said he has experienced the ups and downs of the coal industry in the last few years, including times he was concerned he could lose his job.
"It's nice to see it go back up again," McClay said after Pruitt left to tour the underground mine.
Ryan Wise, 30, of Jefferson, agreed that the coal industry — and prospects of keeping his job — looked grim a few years ago. But things are looking up, he said.
"If this industry left completely, this area would be a desert," he said.
Harvey Mine, in Enon, is the smallest of three metallurgical coal mines located within Consol Energy's complex in Greene and Washington counties. It became operational in March 2014 and is run by CNX Coal Resources, a Canonsburg-based spinoff of industry giant Consol Energy.
The Bailey Mine Complex is "several times larger than the island of Manhattan" and is the largest producing underground coal mining operation in North America, according to CNX Coal's website.
CNX Coal CEO Jimmy Brock said no other administration has ever visited the mine. He said it is good to know there is an EPA administrator who is willing to learn about and encourage the industry.
"We're ready for a new chapter," Brock said following Pruitt's address. "It's easy to be optimistic now. The future looks very bright for us moving forward."
He encouraged his company's miners "to never apologize for what we do."
Pruitt's visit Thursday came two weeks after President Donald Trump signed an executive order mandating a review of the Clean Power Plan, which restricts greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants.
The state's coal industry praised the move, which was seen as Trump's first step toward fulfilling campaign promises to kill Obama-era anti-global warming regulation. Two energy companies, however, said they plan to follow through on ceasing their to sell or close coal-fire power plants in Western Pennsylvania and southern Ohio.
The Clean Air Council on Thursday criticized Pruitt and Trump.
"The Trump administration's reckless slashing of the EPA budget will cost thousands of family-sustaining jobs while jeopardizing the entire country's air quality as well as decades of essential climate change research," Joe Minott, executive director of the Philadelphia-based environmental group, said in a statement . "Pennsylvania deserves leadership that will reduce carbon dioxide and methane pollution, minimizing the already damaging effects of climate change. ... (Thursday's) visit from Administrator Pruitt is an unwelcome attempt to curry favor with Pennsylvanians while cheating them from much-needed economic support."
While serving as Oklahoma's attorney general, Pruitt filed 14 lawsuits challenging EPA regulations. Oklahoma joined a multistate lawsuit opposing the Obama administration's plan to limit planet-warming carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. Pruitt also sued over the EPA's recent expansion of water bodies regulated under the Clean Water Act, which has been opposed by industries that would be forced to clean up polluted wastewater.
The Associated Press contributed.
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-1298 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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