Kentucky Congressman Introduces Bill Supporting Coal Exports (Courier-Journal)
Rep. Hal Rogers unveils coal-friendly budget bill
The $1.012 trillion spending bill unveiled Monday night by Kentucky Rep. Hal Rogers and other budget negotiators includes provisions friendly to the top employer in the congressman’s district — the coal industry.
Rogers, R-5th District, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, negotiated the omnibus package with Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and other members of the two panels.
The coal-related provisions would:
• Prohibit the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corp. from cutting funding for coal-fired power plants overseas. The Ex-Im Bank last month adopted regulations requiring new coal plants to capture carbon emissions.
“The nation’s coal industry has taken a beating from the Obama administration’s war on coal, which has cost thousands of jobs in my district alone,” Rogers said. “Coal exports are an important and growing aspect of the industry, and have a huge benefit to U.S. economic health and job creation.
“This provision will ensure that these exports aren’t unnecessarily slowed by overregulation, to give U.S. industries a fair shot in the global marketplace.”
• Bar any funding for the Army Corps of Engineers that would be used to change how “fill material” from mountaintop mining and other operations is defined.
The agency declined comment, saying it does not discuss pending legislation as a matter of policy. Environmental groups have urged a regulatory change that would give the states more power to prevent fill material from being dumped in valleys and streams.
In a statement, Rogers said, “It is my understanding that the EPA and the corps have been crafting a rule behind closed doors to tighten the definition of ‘fill material’ in such a way as to essentially ban new mining projects under the Clean Water Act.”
John Devine, an attorney in the Natural Resources Defense Council’s water program, said the Rogers provision “will have limited practical impact during the remainder of fiscal year 2014, but it is exactly the wrong message to be sending about this practice.”
• Provide at least $3 million for business development, job training and technical assistance in economically distressed communities dependent on the coal industry.
The catch-all spending bill, known as an omnibus, is expected to be voted on in the House and Senate this week.
The measure pays for federal government operations, projects and programs through the end of the current fiscal year on Sept. 30. Based on the terms of a broad budget deal approved by the Congress last month, the spending bill is expected to pass, making another government shutdown unlikely any time soon.
The White House on Tuesday announced its support for the bill, saying in a statement that it “reflects compromise by both parties” and was “a positive step forward.”
Rogers, Mikulski, New York Rep. Nita Lowey, the ranking Democrat on the House spending panel, and Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, the ranking Republican on the Senate panel, issued a joint statement on the omnibus, calling it “a fair, bipartisan agreement.”
“Although our differences were many and our deadline short, we were able to a draft a solid piece of legislation that meets the guidelines of the (December budget) deal, keeps the government open, and eliminates the uncertainty and economic instability of stop-gap governing,” the lawmakers said.
The omnibus is not without controversial pieces: It provides no new funding for President Barack Obama’s health care law and takes $1 billion out of a separate public health and prevention fund to prevent the administration from using it for Obamacare.
The measure also rolls back what would have been steeper cuts in defense spending, bans federal funding for high-speed rail, seeks to block administration efforts to phase out incandescent light bulbs with more energy-efficient ones, and doesn’t provide funds for the International Monetary Fund or for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.
Conservative groups, including the Heritage Foundation, said the spending bill was too large and should be rejected.
The non-partisan Citizens Against Government Waste said the measure was objectionable because it included numerous earmarks for programs that should be eliminated.
See article here.