CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sen. Jay Rockefeller on Friday urged West Virginia's coal industry to stop "fighting for the status quo," but repeated his strong opposition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's crackdown on mountaintop removal mining and to EPA regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
The West Virginia Democrat said he's pushing for a two-year moratorium on EPA greenhouse rules to allow Congress to write its own plan that would allow more time to perfect and deploy carbon dioxide emissions controls for power plants.
In a speech to the West Virginia Coal Association, Rockefeller said industry officials should not simply fight making changes in the way they operate, but focus on finding better ways to adapt.
"The coal industry is at a crossroads like never before -- change is already upon us," Rockefeller said. "And we have to find a way -- urgently -- to grab hold of our own future."
Rockefeller said the mining industry faces increased competition from cleaner-burning natural gas, a declining reserve of recoverable coal, "lukewarm investors on Wall Street," along with what he called "EPA overreach" on greenhouse gas emissions and Clean Water Act permits.
Regardless of any new environmental rules, government forecasts generally project that Central Appalachian coal production will be cut by half over the next decade because of competition from other regions and the mining out of the best coal supplies.
But Rockefeller insisted in his speech that, "We know this nation cannot and will not prosper without coal, either today or at any time in the future.
"The decline of coal is not inevitable -- there are just as many factors working for us as against us," Rockefeller said in prepared remarks.
Rockefeller noted that he had recently reintroduced mine safety reform legislation, but also said "mining will always be a dangerous occupation. We accept that."