Monday, April 28, 2014

Senate-House Coal Caucus Says Coal Still Vital Source Of Energy, Jobs

Sen. Tim Solobay (D-Washington) Monday stood with other members of the legislative Coal Caucus and industry leaders to highlight a new study showing coal to be a vital source of energy and jobs in Pennsylvania.
The study, released Monday, was conducted by the non-partisan Pennsylvania Economy League and was commissioned by the PA Coal Alliance.  It showed that the coal industry supports more than 36,000 Pennsylvania jobs and carries more than $4 billion in economic impact.
“This study proves unequivocally what we’ve been saying all along,” Sen. Solobay said. “Coal is still a critical part of our economy and remains a vital source of energy.  Public policies that diminish coal in our energy portfolio are shortsighted and irresponsible.”
Sen. Solobay, who co-chairs the Coal Caucus, said coal jobs pay well above median wages and sustain not only families, but entire communities.
“These are your neighbors, your community leaders, your Girl Scout leaders, your baseball coaches,” he said. “They have been part of the fabric of life in Pennsylvania and today’s study shows the size of the hole over regulation could leave.”
The report employs standard methodology to examine the economic impact, using data collected by federal agencies. Findings from the report include:
-- The coal industry is responsible for almost 36,200 full and part-time jobs in Pennsylvania. Of those, about 13,900 are direct coal industry jobs, each of which creates 1.6 additional jobs outside the coal industry.
-- Coal mining and related activities contribute $4.1 billion annually to Pennsylvania's gross domestic product.
-- The report notes that mining wages are significantly higher than the average salary for private sector jobs in Pennsylvania, by about $30,000 per year.
-- In 2011, the most recent year in which data were available, Pennsylvania produced 68 million tons of coal, making it the nation's fourth-largest producer.
-- Of Pennsylvania's 67 counties, 30 are home to coal-mining activities and associated jobs.
"The economic impact of the coal industry in Pennsylvania reaches far beyond the industry itself by generating jobs across all sectors of the economy," said alliance CEO John Pippy. "It's important for residents and legislators to be made aware these effects, especially in the midst of pressure to eliminate coal from our nation's energy mix.
"The family-sustaining jobs the coal industry supports are critical to the health of our economy," Pippy stated. "That's why we need to look carefully at emission standards that would close hundreds of coal-fired power plants and eliminate thousands of jobs, and determine whether there is a more rational approach."
“In the mad rush to eliminate coal from our nation's energy mix, nobody is looking at the economic consequences," Pippy said. "Clean-coal technology has significantly reduced emissions, yet people choose to ignore the facts.
"Ironically, it would have little or no impact in terms of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, because other countries are increasing their reliance on coal," he said.  "It amounts to unilateral economic disarmament, and it would hand other countries a competitive edge."
Sen. Solobay recently introduced a bill that would force stricter review of plans to shutter coal-fired power plants, after energy shortages during the winter caused warnings of involuntary power cutbacks.
Senate Bill 1273, would establish the Coal-Fired Electric Generation Deactivation Commission, which would be charged with reviewing and investigating the potentially adverse impacts that plant closures have on the economy, electric reliability, and the environment.
Solobay said the development of alternative fuel sources is part of sound energy planning, but stability from those sources remains elusive.
“We’re still a long way off and we got a cold lesson on that last winter,” he said. “Consumers across Pennsylvania endured bitter cold days only to be slapped with shocking electric prices. Alternative energy is no alternative if it can’t deliver when we need it.  Natural gas is emerging as a strong source of domestic energy, but the delivery system still needs work.  We must have coal if we want stability in supply and price.”
A copy of the study is available online.

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