[r63] The importance of coal in Indiana

Posted by: Zach Weismiller  | Friday, January 3, 2014

Before we get into the hustle and bustle of the 2014 legislative session, I want to acknowledge an issue that I have received a great deal of feedback about during the past year: the future of coal in Indiana. 

The coal industry plays a significant role in the livelihood of southern Indiana, so it is not hard to understand why many of my constituents feel passionately about the continuation of its use. According to a 2012 study by the Indiana Coal Council, Pike County was the number five producer of coal in the entire state, followed by Daviess County at number six and Dubois County at number seven. 

During President Obama’s first term in office, he had created regulations for all newly built coal plants in an attempt to limit their carbon emissions. Recently however, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from both new and existing fossil-fuel based electric generating plants. 

It is no secret that the president believes the benefits of reducing these emissions would far outweigh the costs. However, like many of you, I recognize that our neighborhoods stand to take a significant hit from these changes, perhaps more so than most others. 

I believe that with thoughtful policies we can not only address these emissions but also assure our state and country’s continued prosperity and economic competitiveness which has been afforded to us through our most abundant energy source: coal. 

In Indiana in particular, coal-based generation provides 90 percent of our electricity. This is the primary reason why Indiana has maintained competitive energy costs and is a leading manufacturing state. In keeping energy costs low, Hoosiers are able to keep more money in their pockets to be spent on other wants and necessities. I believe that our national policies should support this economic security. 

The EPA’s pending proposal for new power plants would essentially establish a de-facto ban on new coal power plants. Advanced high-efficiency coal technologies available today can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 40 percent compared to the older plants they would replace. EPA rules have already taken a heavy toll on the nation’s electric-generation capacity. Most recently, the rules have resulted in the closure, or pending closure of almost 300 power plants, which is comparable to shutting off electricity in 11 states.

As a result of these proposed regulations, both House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tempore David Long, have written the EPA Administrator sharing their concerns and encouraging them to visit Indiana so that they can hold listening sessions and be better informed on the implications these regulations will have. Letters from the legislature have also been sent to President Obama expressing the same trepidations. 

As a state representative, I unfortunately will never get direct say on this issue as it is a national policy. The best that I can do is represent our state interests in any way possible. I assure you that I personally reject any policy that would inflict further damage to the coal-based electricity generation that provides Indiana residents and businesses the reliable and affordable power they need to succeed.