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Hard facts about coal


January 14, 2015 Letters to the Editor

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Regarding the Jan. 3 letter “Kelly wrong on coal,” the writer correctly points out our country’s reliance on coal and its importance in the commonwealth. Coal powers the economy, employs thousands and makes Pennsylvania attractive for businesses and manufacturers by providing affordable electricity. However, our accord ends there.

Actions speak louder than words, and the President’s “Clean Power Plan” delivers the one-two punch that will effectively cripple the coal industry. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, if the plan is enacted as proposed, coal consumption from existing coal-fired plants (111.d) by Pennsylvania’s electric utilities would decrease by about 70 percent by 2030. The second punch (111.b) requires new plants to implement carbon capture and storage technology that is not yet commercially available. Whether the President intended in 2008 to say he would bankrupt the industry is irrelevant. Today the intent of the proposed “Clean Power Plan” is clear.

The coal process defined by the author was a description of the industry several generations ago. The method of coal mining has continued to evolve and improve over the years and technology has enabled significant reductions in the emissions from today’s coal-fired plants, making them 90% cleaner than the ones built in the 70’s.

With regard to the author’s take on safety, Pennsylvania is a leader in coal mining safety and our companies go above and beyond the federal standards. According to DEP, there have been zero fatalities in Pennsylvania underground coal mines since July 2009, a remarkable record for a heavy equipment industry.

It is foolish to regard coal as an antiquated form of energy; in fact, by 2017 coal will become the leading source of energy globally as developing nations turn to coal to power their communities and economies. Coal is an abundant, natural resource that has established Pennsylvania as a keystone energy state. We should continue to benefit from this domestic resource while forging ahead on the path to reduce emissions as science and technologies evolve and become commercially available.

We do not need to choose between the economy and the environment. We can preserve jobs, continue to provide a strong tax base for the state budget, power the economy and have reliable, affordable electricity with a commonsense approach that embraces technology and the environmentally friendly business practices of today’s coal operators.

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