Lawmakers Vow to Fight EPA's 'War on Coal'

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WASHINGTON -- One thing the Obama administration has not been shy about is ruling by regulation when it can't get what it wants through legislation.

The Environmental Protection Agency decided in late 2009 that since carbon dioxide is a pollutant the agency could regulate it under the Clean Air Act.

The U.S. Supreme Court backed this controversial idea, prompting the EPA to impose numerous regulations -- a move many lawmakers say amounts to a war on coal.

"This war on coal is going to cost thousands of jobs -- those who work in the mining industry as well as those who are dependent on the affordable, reliable electricity that coal provides," Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, said.

Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., challenged, "Is the EPA the Environmental Protection Agency or does it really stand for the Employment Prevention Agency?"

Coal gives America 40 percent of its electricity. Hobbling the industry is sure to mean higher energy prices.

"It is fundamentally immoral for the federal government to put hard-working, middle-class American families into economic distress. And that's exactly what this war on coal does," Rep. Andy Barr, R-Ky., said.

"Let's talk about our senior citizens on fixed incomes," Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said. "If these regulations go forth, it's going to be impossible for them to cool their homes in the summer and heat them in the winter."

Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., agreed.

"So if you want to take low income working moms and dads, single parents, and make their lives more miserable, more difficult, make their paychecks go less far, these are the regulations that will do it," Lummis said.

But the EPA and its allies warn unfettered global warming will destroy crops, unleash numerous super-storms even worse than Hurricane Sandy and be much more devastating to the economy.

Still, some lawmakers say there's a deeper issue: rule by regulation from the presidential administration rather than legislation from Congress is also dangerous for democracy.

"When we separated powers, Montesquieu said, 'If you let the executive legislate, there'll be a type of a tyranny,'" Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., quoted the 18th century French philosopher. "This is a type of a tyranny, and we will fight it, not just because it's bad for jobs and bad for coal, but because it goes against everything we stand for."

Many say the boom in cleaner natural gas means it can replace coal. And some in the natural gas industry who put big money into this war on coal are now cheering.

"The natural gas industry thought they were very clever: 'We kneecapped coal. Now everything will switch to natural gas and we'll make a fortune,'" Phil Kerpen, author of Democracy Denied, told CBN News.

"Well, the Sierra Club has since announced the sequel to their 'Beyond Coal' campaign," he continued. "It's called 'Beyond Natural Gas,' and now they're saying they will sue to stop every single natural gas plant from being sited in this country."

Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., noted, "When President Obama got elected, he campaigned on a plan that said 'under my plan, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket. His former secretary of energy said he'd like to see European-style gasoline prices. Recently, a chief adviser said that 'a war on coal is exactly what we need.'"

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., vowed to fight back.

"And we're going to continue fighting in a bipartisan way to block the Obama administration's attempt at not only this war on coal, but a war on all American energy," he said.

A major reason Congress hasn't fought much against global warming is there's no consensus in Congress on how much man can really fight the threat or even how real it is.

But the EPA believes wholeheartedly in that threat, which Kerpen says is amazing since it's all based on computer projections that may not be right.

"The idea that we're going to make people suffer, make them pay higher energy bills every single month because of a computer model that could be totally wrong claims there's a benefit 300 years from now," he charged. "It's a crazy way to do business, and these models get changed all the time. The next version of them could say something totally different."

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at