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EPA Administrator: ‘Coal Is Not Competitive’

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy listens to questioning while appearing before a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing in Washington on March 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON – Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said “coal is not competitive” and the Obama administration plans to “invest” in the communities hit the hardest with coal industry layoffs.

“In a place where it’s competitive you’re having prices that simply can’t compensate coal for its cost, and that is because in West Virginia, in particular, all of the cheap coal has already been taken up, mined, yeah, and they are going deeper. It is more expensive,” McCarthy said at the Climate Action Forum where she was interviewed by Bill Nye “The Science Guy.”

“Also, coal is a highly polluting system if you do not take care of that, so we are talking about more and more opportunities for fossil to have to invest in itself to reduce traditional air pollutants. So there is a lot of reason why coal is not competitive,” she added.

Nye challenged McCarthy and asked if “invest” meant giving laid-off coal miners “welfare checks” or something else.

McCarthy cited President Obama’s “Power Plus Plan” in her answer. The plan would provide $55 million for “the implementation of targeted economic and workforce development strategies across a number of federal programs.”

“It really is considerable funding to do job training, to do reinvestment. I mean, one of the things that every state needs to have is an infrastructure that will attract business — get broadband where it needs to be — that is a big push in West Virginia and other places, so we need to understand that the market right now is saying that coal isn’t competitive. It’s saying it louder and clearer every day,” she said.

McCarthy said a lot of “smaller facilities” that are not “cost competitive” are retiring or considering that because “they don’t want to continue making the investments” necessary for public health.

“But that’s the choice of the market. EPA’s job is to reduce pollution to the extent that it’s available to us in a cost-effective way and to look at the economics of that and to look at the jobs and to be able to make the case to the American public. And we have made that case each and every time, but on the whole what’s happened is jobs continue to grow,” she said. “What happens, though, is some communities may get left behind. You don’t change the entire dynamics of the economics for those communities or deny they exist. You invest in those communities so they continue to have opportunities moving forward.”

Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton have shared different perspectives on the coal industry in West Virginia, which held its primary on Tuesday.

“I’m the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into coal country because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” Clinton said.

Later, Clinton apologized and said her comments were taken “out of context.”

Trump criticized her statement and vowed to keep coal miners working as president.

“I am thinking about the miners all over this country. We’re going to put the miners back to work,” Trump said in a recent campaign speech. “We are going to get those mines open. Oh, coal country — what they have done.”