In 1988, former Democratic presidential candidate and life-long liberal, George McGovern, bought a resort hotel in Connecticut. Two years later the hotel went bankrupt. In a 1991 commentary published by the Wall Street Journal, McGovern placed most of the blame for the bankruptcy on the cost of dealing with federal, state, and local regulations, and he blamed frivolous lawsuits.
"I … wish that during the years I was in public office I had had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day. That knowledge would have made me a better U.S. senator and a more understanding presidential contender," McGovern wrote.
Two state representatives from Clearfield and Elk Counties are working to spark a McGovern-like epiphany among regulators and other government officials before industries in their districts suffer further setbacks. Representative Tommy Sankey (R-74) and Representative Matt Gabler (R-75) say an overlap of regulations and bonding requirements is battering industry in their area, especially the coal industry. They have organized a series of meetings to bring businesses, regulators, and other government officials together to eliminate redundancy and ease burdens.
"Our role as legislators is to streamline government and let businesses do what they do best – create jobs," Gabler said. "I also believe through this process you can actually improve the environment."
Gabler and Sankey have a battle ahead. The government threat to the coal industry alone is formidable, especially given the new EPA regulations targeting coal-fired power plants.
"The regulations coming out of Washington continue to dampen growth and job creation in Pennsylvania," said PMA Executive Director David N. Taylor. "Just the implementation of the EPA’s regulations will cost our commonwealth billions of dollars and kill jobs in this time of high unemployment. Pennsylvania’s businesses are struggling to gain momentum and these regulations are only holding us back."
In a recent blog entry for the Heritage Foundation Nicholas Loris wrote:
"Regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Interior, and the Department of Labor have been labeled President Barack Obama’s ‘war on coal.’ A more precise label would be a ‘war on American families, businesses, and jobs.’ Unnecessarily and artificially eliminating coal as a reliable, affordable energy source would dramatically harm the economy."
Analysis from the Heritage Foundation finds that significantly reducing coal’s share in America’s energy mix would, before 2030:
• Destroy more than 500,000 jobs,
• Cause a family of four to lose more than $1,000 in annual income, and
• Increase electricity prices by 20 percent.
The regulations are especially troublesome for Pennsylvania because coal has traditionally played such a large role in the state’s economy. Tommy Sankey notes that Pennsylvania is the fourth leading coal-producing state in the country.
"Our mining industry employs more than 41,000 people and is a major source of tax revenue on the local, state and federal level (approximately $700 million altogether). All told, coal’s economic benefit to the state is estimated to exceed $7 billion," Sankey wrote in a recent letter to his constituents. "…it is safe to assume the impact of the Obama plan on our state would be significant. It would hit your wallet in more ways than one."
President of Pennsylvania Coal Alliance, George Ellis, says the new EPA regulations come at the worst possible time for the industry given the still sluggish economy.
"You really have to applaud what [Sankey and Gabler] are trying to do there," Ellis said. "Education is one of the most valuable weapons we have in trying to turn this around."
For the owners and operators in the coal industry, the developments are agonizing.
"We’re running about 20 percent of capacity and down from 150 to maybe 50 full time from what we were a few years ago," said Harry Hanchar, President of the River Hill Coal Company in Kylertown, Clearfield County. "I just can’t bear to lay anyone else off."
George McGovern was only one business owner with one hotel. In contrast, the situation faced today will impact entire state economies, threatening the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of employees and their families. State-based authorities are better suited for environmental protection rather than the widespread and often overreaching federal government. Keeping redundancy and red-tape out of the regulatory system is essential for the economic success of the commonwealth. Representative Sankey and Representative Gabler recognize this need and are dedicated to continue the fight for safety, efficiency, and jobs.