Four years ago, President Barack Obama campaigned on eliminating coal from America’s energy mix. And, unlike many campaign promises, this one is coming true.
Last month, Billings was shaken when we learned that the Corette coal-fired electrical generator in Yellowstone County will be shut down due to new Obama administration regulations. What has been happening in many other parts of the country, but we thought would never happen here, hit us squarely where it hurts: in our community and economy.
Corette isn’t the first generator that is being mothballed due to the Obama administration’s War on Coal. Already, 204 generating facilities in 25 states – representing 31 gigawatts of generating capacity – will go off line as a direct result of a barrage of carefully implemented new Environmental Protection Agency rules aimed at ending coal production and use.
For Montanans, the Corette announcement is a wake-up call – and a call to action.
Sixty percent of Montana’s electricity comes from coal. At 154 megawatts, enough to power 100,000 homes, Corette represents a significant share of our energy mix that will now have to be replaced. With little hope that anyone will be able to build a new coal-fired plant to replace the affordable power we get from Corette, the likely result will be that electricity for Montana will come from other, possibly out-of-state sources, causing our prices here in Montana to spike in coming years.
And Corette isn’t the only plant in Montana that is in jeopardy. Obama’s EPA already has additional proposed regulations on the drawing board aimed at power plants like the larger Colstrip generators. Piling several of these regulations on top of each other causes the compliance costs to skyrocket, making it nearly impossible for many existing power generators to stay in business.
For Obama and his politically motivated EPA supporters, that’s the whole point.
Losing Corette put 35 hard-working Montanans out of work. The ripple effect of its closure will doubtlessly lead to further job losses in other parts of our community. If Obama succeeds in his War on Coal and other Montana generators close, hundreds of jobs will be lost directly at the plants. And if America’s domestic market for coal shrivels as a result of generators closing here and across the country, then we’ll lose thousands of high-wage mining, railroad and other jobs right here in Montana.
This comes at a time when Montana is in the critical first stages of an energy boom that can create thousands of new jobs. Not to mention the increased tax revenues that go along with more Montana coal production. Sadly, we’re heading in the opposite direction.
Besides the hardship visited on those 35 Montanans and their families, losing Corette represents a loss of $2 million in property tax revenue a year for Yellowstone County. That’s money that goes to our schools, our roads, water and sewer infrastructure, and all the other important services government provides for our community. That’s $2 million that will be very difficult to replace.
Make no mistake, Obama and the environmental activists entrenched in his administration and the EPA know exactly what they are doing. Closing Corette wasn’t an “unintended consequence” – it was the plan.
To stop this assault on our communities and our economy, we need the help and support of the people we’ve sent to Washington to look out for our interests. Right now, we’re not getting that kind of representation from our senators and we need to change that.
Our own Sen. Jon Tester was warned that these new EPA regulations that are forcing Corette to close would be devastating to Montana coal-fired generators, but he voted for them anyway.
We have a right to expect better from our elected representatives and, right now, we need it desperately if we’re to head off the Obama/EPA onslaught. Tester needs to know three things:
1. That he made a mistake that will cost 35 Montanans their livelihoods for no good reason.
2. That we know it.
3. That we expect him to work now to stop these regulations and protect our Montana coal and energy industries.
When we elected Tester, we sent him to protect our interests. In this case he failed. He has a responsibility to make it right.
Mack Long is the Republican candidate for Senate District 26, which includes the Corette generating facility.