Representatives from the United Mine Workers of America are asking local government officials to petition the Environmental Protection Agency to stop its "War on Coal."
That effort continued last week in Cambria County.
United Mine representative Dale Lydic was at the Ebensburg Borough Council meeting, telling officials the area will suffer "tremendous job losses" if EPA regulations to clean up coal-burning plants and reduce reliance on fossil fuels succeed.
Lydic said the union is going "everywhere there's coal" to ask borough councils, supervisors and commissioners to call on the EPA to revise or withdraw some of its regulations, and to hold public hearings in areas where there are a lot of coal jobs.
The EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan to reduce the effects of climate change will only cut back the amount of greenhouse gases by 1 percent, he said, while plant closures will cost tens of thousands of jobs.
And wages aside, coal brings more than $40 million to the local economy each year between pensions and health care benefits for workers and widows, he said.
Ebensburg Borough Council's president told Lydic that the council normally doesn't get involved in issues at the federal level and officials would take the request under advisement.
County commissioners declined to sign the resolution because they have a stronger one planned.
"We've met with a variety of people associated with coal" over the last few years, Commissioner Mark Wissinger said. "We want to go further."
President Commissioner Douglas Lengenfelder said local coal companies have made efforts to clean up streams and offset their environmental effects, and Commissioner Thomas Chernisky said some were burning "clean before clean was cool."
Lengenfelder said Dennis Simmers, manager of Colver Power Project, a cogeneration plant in Cambria Township, has testified before Congress and has discussed energy plans with county officials.
Cogeneration plants that burn boney piles, also called slag heaps - waste materials produced by coal mining that can't be burned in regular plants - are taking care of an environmental hazard the EPA itself can't deal with, Lengenfelder said.
The EPA has suggested nature should be in charge of getting rid of the slag, which could take 10,000 years, Lengenfelder said.
Cambria County isn't just about coal, either, he added. The county's windmills generate more power than all three coal plants combined, he said. "We're being good stewards of the environment."
Lydic added that miners also want clean air but don't think jobs must be lost to keep it clean.
Terri White, spokeswoman for EPA's Region 3, which covers Pennsylvania, provided a statement from the EPA denying the war on coal.
The statement says coal "will remain a critical part of America's energy mix for the foreseeable future" and that coal was in decline long before President Barack Obama was in office.
The statement says EPA plans to reduce carbon pollution gives each state several options to meet regulations and "does not mandate the retirement of any coal plants."
White said the EPA provides similar statements to all reporters in response to claims there is a war on coal.
Lydic said commissioners in Indiana, Armstrong and Somerset counties already have signed United Mine Workers resolution, along with local government officials in Homer City, Blairsville and Clymer in Indiana County, as well as Nanty Glo Borough in Cambria County.
Mirror Staff Writer Kelly Cernetich is at 946-7520.