April 14, 2012

'Fighting for Every Job' | Times West Virginian

KINGWOOD — There’s a war a’coming, and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin’s already swinging.

Manchin, wrapping up a two-week “Fighting for Every Job” tour of the state on Friday afternoon, visited Robinson Run Coal Mine in Marion County for a first-hand demonstration of new mine safety technology and answered questions from Preston County residents at the Preston County Courthouse, where he delivered a fiery denouncement of “the attack and the War on Coal” by the EPA.

According to Manchin, following the Sago, Aracoma and Upper Big Branch mine disasters, it was clear that more advanced communication and tracking technology was necessary to ensure the safety of West Virginia’s miners.

“We passed legislation in 2006 with the determination to create the safest conditions for our miners,” he said. “Here we are six years later, with very promising technology being developed.”

Manchin said that, when this communication technology was proposed, it was considered impossible. Friday, when he went down into the mines, he communicated with officials on the surface through a thousand feet of rock and soil with a wire¬less phone.

This technology would make it easier for mine officials to contact and pinpoint the location of trapped miners in the event of a disaster.

At the Preston County Courthouse, Manchin spoke with residents about the possibil¬ity of the Albright Power Station, a source of many local jobs, closing because of EPA regulations. Representatives from FirstEnergy, including Jim Haney, president of West Virginia operations, and Anne Grealy, director of federal regu¬latory affairs, helped to explain the situation.

If proposed EPA regulations go into effect, FirstEnergy will be forced to close the Albright station by Sept. 1 of this year, Grealy said. Current regulations allow power companies to aver¬age the pollutants and toxins emitted by their plants across multiple days or plants. The Mercury and Air Toxics Rule, as it is presently called, would require all plants to be in com¬pliance with air quality regula¬tions at all hours of operation.

For plants like Albright, which already operate on a lim¬ited basis due to economic and environmental concerns, installing the technology to bring the station into complete compliance would be prohibi¬tively expensive compared to the amount of use the company can get out of it, she said.

Haney said that the company is looking at ways to reuse the property and find new jobs for people if and when the plant is closed down. “We’ve been neighbors for a long time, and we’re going to be neighbors for a long time,” he said.

About 60 people are currently employed at Albright.

In February, FirstEnergy made the announcement that in addition to the Albright station, they would be shutting down the Rivesville Power Station in Marion County and the Willow Island Power Station near the Parkersburg area.

Manchin said that it’s impor¬tant to have a realistic energy policy in place as a nation, and he doesn’t believe that current policy accomplishes that objec¬tive. “The bottom line is that we’re in the real world, and you’ve got to find a balance between the economy and the environment,” he said. “That’s not happening.”

Manchin said that coal was one of the driving forces behind the United States’ growth into one of the most powerful nations in the world, and numbers pro¬vided by the Department of Energy suggest that the country will continue to depend on coal for its energy needs.

“We’re hoping that, sooner or later, common sense will pre¬vail,” he said.

By:  Jonathan Williams
Source: Manchin talks about 'War on Coal' in state tour