The Money Behind the War on the ‘War on Coal’

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On Monday, a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a field hearing in the coal mining community of Abington, Va. and invited executives from Big Coal to testify on how the Environmental Protection Agency’s new carbon pollution rules are part of a supposed “war on coal” by the Obama administration.

In his opening statement, Ed Whitfield, chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Power, said stopping the so-called “war on coal” is his top priority, above even “the weak economy, stubbornly high unemployment, skyrocketing federal spending, Obamacare, and others.”

Later, Whitfield and the rest of the subcommittee heard representatives from energy companies like Alpha Natural Resources, Dominion Resources, and Cliffs Natural Resources about how the EPA’s rules would affect their operations in coal country.

While at the hearing in Virginia, the representatives said that their main motivation is protecting the livelihoods of coal mining communities. But at the same moment back in Washington, D.C., top House Republicans are attempting to block a Department of Labor regulation that would protect coal miners from the increasing epidemic of black lung disease, which is caused by fine coal dust particles. 

With these congressmen hard at work promoting its interests, Big Coal is hard at work getting its allies re-elected to Congress, according to Public Campaign Action Fund analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

  • Three large coal-related companies that testified at the hearing have poured $99,500 into the campaigns of Energy & Commerce subcommittee members in the past seven months alone, including $56,500 from Alpha Natural Resources, $40,000 from Dominion Resources, and $3,000 from Cliffs Natural Resources. 
  • The largest amounts from these three companies have gone to Rep. David McKinley (R-W.V.), $28,000; Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-Mich), $15,000; Rep. Morgan Griffith (R, Va), $15,000; and Subcommittee Chair Ed Whitfield (R-Ky), $12,000.   
  • Five subcommittee members are among the top 20 recipients of Big Coal money given to house candidates, including Reps. Whitfield, Upton, Griffith, McKinley, and John Shimkus (R-Ill.).