Last December the Environmental Protection Agency issued rules that limit the amount of mercury that coal-burning power plants can put into the air. Mercury is a nerve toxin, especially dangerous to children and the unborn, and the mercury rules had been a long time in the making. Like other actions of the Environmental Protection Agency, this one was immediately attacked by the coal industry and its allies. Part of that challenge came to the U.S. Senate in June, in the form of a bill that, if it became law, would repeal the mercury rule. The bill was ultimately defeated.
One voice in the Senate debate belonged to West Virginia’s Senator Jay Rockefeller, a longtime supporter of coal interests who nevertheless took aim at the industry itself and its tactic of all-out opposition to environmental rules. Rockefeller urged West Virginia to “boldy embrace the future” and prepare for an economic and energy transition for the state, especially for coal miners and their families. Here is an excerpt from his comments.