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A Bipartisan Solution to Keep the Lights On | Commentary

Coal is one of America’s most abundant and affordable sources of energy, providing for nearly half of the nation’s electricity. In Kentucky, over 90 percent of the power comes from coal, helping keep the lights on and energy costs low for consumers and businesses. But this important fuel source is one of the major targets of President Obama’s announced climate action plan.

Making good on his promise to “bankrupt” the coal industry, the president recently instructed his Environmental Protection Agency to issue greenhouse regulations for all new and existing fossil fuel-fired power plants. The agency released the first of its regulations in September, proposing standards for new plants that are so extreme that they essentially sound the death knell for the coal industry. The carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies required to meet the proposed standards are not even commercially viable. This effort would effectively eliminate coal as a source of future electricity generation in America.

The EPA’s actions directly contradict the president’s repeated support for an “all-of-the-above” American energy strategy. The administration is blatantly picking winners and losers. And coal, along with tens of thousands of jobs supported by the industry, is on the losing side. The administration’s policy would be better labeled “all-of-the-above” but “nothing-from-below.”

The United States is the “Saudi Arabia of coal” and we should embrace our potential. We have a responsibility to ensure that coal remains a critical part of the nation’s energy mix, ensuring American consumers and businesses access to affordable, diverse and reliable electricity now and in the future. The regulatory threat to coal is also a threat to our nation’s prosperity. Congress should not stand idly by while this administration chooses to regulate one of our most valuable natural resources into oblivion.

This is why I am taking action to level the playing field and have introduced legislation, along with Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., that allows all American energy sources to compete and safeguards America’s diverse electricity generation portfolio.

One of the most pressing concerns with the EPA’s planned rule for new plants is that it sets an impossible standard. We are simply proposing that the EPA set standards that are actually achievable in the real word. Our legislation, the Electricity Security and Affordability Act, requires that any standard for new coal plants must be achieved for a continuous one year period by at least six different generating units — this includes highly efficient plants that utilize the most modern and state-of-the-art emissions control technologies.

The legislation also takes action to protect America’s existing coal fleet and thousands of jobs from the EPA’s next regulatory blow. We want Congress to set the effective date for EPA rules relating to existing plants to ensure that we have a national discussion about the use of coal and the future of American energy.

America is now standing at a critical crossroads. We are faced with the choice between the path toward higher energy prices and industrial stagnation or the road that embraces our energy supplies and allows for innovative and clean new technologies that help keep prices affordable and American businesses competitive.

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