CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Obama administration is not out to destroy the coal industry, the president's nominee to run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday.
During a confirmation hearing, would-be EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy tried to assure members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that the agency would treat coal fairly when writing new air pollution rules and water quality standards.
"I believe that coal has been and will continue to be a significant source of energy in the United States, and I take my job seriously when developing those standards to provide flexibility in the rules," McCarthy told lawmakers.
Republican committee members hammered away at McCarthy, complaining about her role in writing new EPA rules to reduce toxic emissions from coal-fired power plants and about pending proposals to force coal plants to control their global warming pollution.
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., pointed out newspaper stories from his home state and from West Virginia about layoffs of coal miners because of coal's declining share in U.S. electrical generation.
"Regulations and proposed rules on greenhouse gases, coal ash, mercury emissions and industrial boilers have led to the closing of dozens of power plants in the U.S., costing our country thousands of jobs," Barrasso said.
The environmental group Appalachian Voices, though, released a new review of government data that showed that U.S. coal mining jobs increased overall under the Obama administration.
"While the data show some variations among coal-producing states, each of the top 10 has had more mining jobs on average under the Obama administration than under the Bush administration," the group said. "Nine of those states saw higher coal mining employment in 2012 than at any point during the Bush years."