Johnson pushes coal use

SALEM-On a swing through the area before Congress returns to session this week, Sixth District U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Marietta) said he’s continuing to push back against the war on coal.

A member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, he referenced two pieces of legislation passed by the House which he introduced, but said he’s not holding out hope for the bills to make it through the Senate.

One is the Stop the War on Coal Act introduced in 2012 and the other is the Preventing Government Waste & Protecting Coal Mining Jobs in America Act, which was just passed by the House in March.

“The war on coal is very real,” he said.

Johnson explained that the coal industry is being attacked from a production standpoint and from a utilization standpoint. The most recent act for protecting coal mining jobs has to do with the administration rewriting the stream buffer zone rule put in place by the previous administration.

According to Johnson, the rewrite would cause energy prices to skyrocket and effectively shut down underground coal mining operations due to the regulations.

He’s also working on trying to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from making rules through the Clean Air Act which would make it impossible to build coal-fired power plants. He said they’re also coming out with new rules for existing coal-fired power plants, noting that there are six of those plants located along the Ohio River, including some in the Sixth District.

In other EPA-related matters, Johnson spoke out against rules being formed by the EPA regarding manganese ferroalloy, a required ingredient of steel manufacturing. He said the rules will require manganese producers to place a dome over their plants which would be cost-prohibitive. A delay was secured to update data to see if the additional compliance controls were necessary.

According to Johnson, the EPA’s own scientists saw no additional rules as necessary, but the EPA administration apparently disagreed. He called the situation a national security issue and a domestic economic issue due to the possible effect on manufacturing related to steel.

He said he’s also pushing against changes in the rules for brick manufacturers. Johnson cited success in stopping an EPA rule proposal related to fire hydrants under the Clean Water Act, noting that his legislation was signed into law and stopped the rule change.

Other legislation he talked about related to long-term infrastructure for highways, a water resources development act and the Using Our Energy to Build Better Communities Act to bring 20 percent of the revenue from federal land leases back to the community where the land sits.

In the district, Johnson has been attending a number of events, such as the Second Annual Sixth District Collaboration Forum in St. Clairsville held Wednesday, bringing together public officials and economic development experts to find out what’s available, what’s working and what isn’t working. One of the speakers was Columbiana County Engineer Bert Dawson.

Last month he attended a Women in Energy event held at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center to let women know what jobs and career opportunities are available in the energy industry. He also took some tours this week in Salem, East Palestine and Columbiana.

“We’re beginning to see what we’ve been talking about with energy production and jobs and opportunities being created,” he said.

An event coming up in Lisbon will be a jobs fair on June 13 in conjunction with state Sen. Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman).