WASHINGTON -- Thousands of coal workers and officials rallied on Capitol Hill Tuesday. They warned if the Obama administration and Environmental Protection Agency have their way, Americans will be paying much higher energy prices and thousands of jobs and lives across coal country will be hurt.
The Rally for American Jobs was meant to highlight what those targeted call a "war on coal."
"If they destroy coal, this country's destroyed," Roger Horton, with Citizens for Coal, said. "Forty percent of our electricity alone is generated by coal."
Horton and others at the rally warned killing off coal would lead to soaring energy prices. They also insisted it's been cheap energy like coal that's allowed American industry to prosper and compete so well against other nations.
But now the EPA has hit coal plants with regulations so tough, Horton stated no industry could measure up.
"There's no technology in the world that can meet these standards," he said.
Coal worker Jim Dailer of Wheeling, W.Va., complained, "They've tightened down regulation after regulation down through the years and ended up with putting us out of business pretty much."
More than 200 coal-fired plants have already announced they're closing. Dailer said it will be some 350 by the end of next year.
These coal miners, workers and officials rallied on Capitol Hill because only Congress or the courts can stop the EPA.
"What we're trying to do is reach the hearts and minds of the people who are in those halls in front of me," Horton said as he looked up at the Capitol building. "To get them to understand that coal is much more than an energy source. It's people."
Coal worker Jim Kowalczyk of Maynard, Ohio, is a living illustration.
"I was laid off from a coal mine and trying to find a job somewhere," he told CBN News. "They're almost non-existent. If you do find a job, it's low-paying."
The impact of lost industry jobs is rippling out across coal country.
"There are 10 to 12 jobs because of every coal miner out there," Dailer said.
Then there's the effect on personal lives when jobs get killed.
"I have seen divorces. I have seen drug abuse," Horton said. "I have seen people lose their homes, lose their vehicles. They've had to re-tool, re-school, go somewhere else, leave their hometowns where they've been all their lives. And it's just not fair."
Kowalczyk said losing his coal job devastated his life and family.
"I got divorced. Things didn't go right," he said. "And it just caused a lot of family problems."
The pro-coal protestors on Capitol Hill Tuesday weren't just blaming the EPA, but a president whose environmental standards go way past what they believe is reasonable.
"I was around in the 1950s and 1960s and there was a lot of pollution," Dailer said. "But we've cleaned up a lot of things: the creeks, the water and the air. So it's just to what extreme do you want to take that? And we can't afford the extremes he's taking us to."
"We don't want a handout. All we want is work. And they're not listening," Horton said of the administration and EPA. "They keep throwing everything in the world in our path."