Just three years ago, hundreds of construction workers and boilermakers from Local 154 installed state-of-the-art pollution control equipment on a 1,700 megawatt coal-fired power plant. More than $500 million was invested in this plant, proving that coal and clean air were not mutually exclusive.
Now, those breakthrough technological upgrades -- approved by the Environmental Protection Agency only three years ago -- have been deemed insufficient by the very same agency by virtue of new regulations created without a vote in Congress or input from the public. These new regulations are forcing the shutdown of the Hatfield's Ferry power plant in Masontown and the Mitchell power plant in New Eagle, putting hundreds of utility workers and boilermakers out of work.
I represent more than 2,000 boilermakers in Western Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. My members learned the hard way that the EPA's goal isn't clean air; it's eliminating coal and our way of life.
Critics of coal malign the thousands of boilermakers, mine workers and hard-working men and women who earn an honest living in our region from coal. They insult us -- calling us polluters and murderers. In its Aug. 6 editorial ("Coal Barons"), the Post-Gazette made outrageous claims about our livelihood, attacking our integrity and ignoring the tremendous environmental gains made by coal. In the last three decades, coal usage has tripled, but pollutants like sulfur dioxide have fallen by 56 percent.
The skeptics in this debate are those who ignore that coal is used cleanly. The deniers are those who won't acknowledge the true "social cost" of the EPA's anti-coal agenda: the 400 southwestern Pennsylvania families who are losing their paychecks. We can have clean air and keep coal as a vital part of our economy, but we can't do it if the EPA and its allies are allowed to continue waging a devastating war against our jobs. Thank you to U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy for standing up for local working-class families.
RAYMOND C. VENTRONE
Boilermakers Local 154