Fighting for you in Washington, D.C.
The UMWA is engaged in the nation’s capital on behalf of our members, their families and their communities. We’re fighting to preserve health care and pension benefits for retired UMWA members in the coal industry; for safe, secure jobs for all our members; for a sensible energy policy that recognizes the central role coal can and will continue to play in power generation for decades to come; for quality health care for all Americans and especially retirees; for the protection of Social Security and Medicare for current and future retirees; and for strong protections for workers’ rights on the job.
Here are some of the things we are working on in Washington:
The Miners Protection Act
The UMWA’s top legislative priority is the Miners Protection Act, Senate Bill 175 and House Resolution 179. It would secure retiree health care benefits for those retirees whose companies declared bankruptcy in 2012 and 2015 – Patriot Coal, Walter Energy and Alpha Natural Resources. The bill would also preserve the long-term health of the UMWA 1974 Pension Fund.
S. 175 is sponsored by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.). H.R 179 is sponsored by Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.).
The previous version of the Miners Protection Act, S. 1714, received a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee on March 1, 2016. Click here to see a video of President Roberts’ testimony at that hearing.
S. 1714 was favorably reported out of the Senate Finance Committee by an 18-8 vote on Sept. 21, 2016. Click here to see a video of the Committee debate and vote on the legislation.
On Dec. 9, 2016, Congress passed a Continuing Resolution that funded health care benefits only for a period of four months, through April 28, 2017. The UMWA had asked Senators to vote against a “cloture” motion to bring this bill to the floor, which requires 60 votes to pass. The motion passed 61-38. Click here to see the record of that vote in the Senate.
In addition to the Miners Protection Act, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has introduced legislation that would preserve retiree health care benefits but does not address the pension issue. That legislation is S. 176.
EPA rules: The Clean Power Plan/New Source Performance Standards
The Environmental Protection Agency issued its final Clean Power Plan (CPP) rule regulating carbon emissions from existing sources in August, 2015. The rule requires an overall reduction of carbon emissions of 32 percent by 2030. States were required to submit individual plans by September, 2016 to comply with the Rule, or apply for a two-year extension. The UMWA, along with 27 states and various industry groups, sued the EPA in Federal Court. The lawsuits claim:
- the rule seeks to correct a global problem on the backs of American workers,
- costs associated with implementing the Plan in terms of money and job losses are indefensible,
- the Agency has grossly overstepped its regulatory authority.
In February, 2016 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay of the CPP. This unprecedented decision was considered a small but significant victory by many in the coal industry, the UMWA and other groups who had sued the EPA in Federal Court over the CPP. There is now a hold on implementation of the Rule until the U.S. District Court in D.C. makes a decision on the merits of the case, which is not expected until 2017.
The New Source Performance Standards for Greenhouse Gas Emissions for New Stationary Sources (NSPS) were finalized on October 23, 2015. In this Rule, the EPA determined that carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology is available and technically feasible to implement at fossil fuel-fired steam generating units. The EPA finalized an emission standard for newly constructed fossil fuel-fired steam generating units at 1,400 lb. CO2/MWh-g.
The UMWA believes that CCS is not yet an “adequately demonstrated” technology for purposes of establishing the NSPS proposed in this rule. In its current form the rule effectively prevents the construction of new, state-of-the art coal generation facilities. The rule stops new coal plant construction because owners must commit in the permitting process to utilize CCS technology at partial or full levels, even though CCS is not yet “adequately demonstrated.”
As with the Clean Power Plan, the UMWA has sued to overturn the NSPS rule.
The Trump administration has indicated that it will attempt to withdraw both the CPP and NSPS. More information will be posted here as events unfold.
The Stream Protection Rule
The Stream Protection Rule was proposed on July 27, 2015 by the Office of Surface Mining, a part of the Department of the Interior. The UMWA commented on this proposed rule after our analysis of the rule and the Regulatory Impact Analysis and Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
The UMWA shares the desire to protect water resources and maintain the environment in coal-producing areas of our nation. That is where our members and their families live. That is why we have consistently agreed that it is important for mine operators to restore surface disturbances as a result of both surface and underground mining to pre-mining conditions as much as possible and in a timely manner.
As the largest union representing coal workers in the United States, we are also concerned about potential job losses that would be caused by this rule. We are especially concerned with employment in the Appalachian region, where a large number of our members are concentrated and which has sustained a series of economic shocks to its coal industry over the last several years. In its current form, this proposed rule weighs heaviest on that region.
The UMWA is very concerned that the proposed rule will have a negative effect on longwall mining in Appalachia and elsewhere if it is issued as proposed, causing significant job losses and further economic misery to the coal-producing areas of the United States.
In February, 2017, the House and Senate passed a joint resolution under the Congressional Review Act that nullified the Stream Protection Rule. The UMWA supported this resolution; to see President Roberts’ letter to Majority Leader McConnell click here.
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