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Is the EPA to blame for 1,500 GE layoffs in Pennsylvania?

President Barack Obama’s war on coal has helped claim 1,500 more victims, this time in Erie, Pa., at a 100-year-old locomotive plant.

General Electric Transportation recently announced that it was cutting about one-third of its work force in Erie because of a decline in orders. Experts say a big reason involves Obama’s various clean air initiatives, which are pushing states to make hefty cuts in greenhouse gasses.

“Lost in the anti-coal campaign is the realization that these regulations don’t just affect coal,” said Abby Foster, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance, a non-profit advocacy association. “They affect the entire economy and the trickle down impacts are far reaching and real.  You’re seeing that here with the rail industry. Unfortunately, the majority of these jobs won’t be replaced by the renewable energy sector and the carelessness of these layered regulations will have lasting impacts on entire regions of the country.”

Another reason for the cuts is that Erie is a union shop and many of the jobs will be going to a newly constructed plant in Texas, which is a right-to-work state, the company’s union president says.

One of the strongest advocates for the GE workers has been U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who has lobbied GE and various Obama cabinet officials to prevent the job losses scheduled to occur at the end of the year. But he stopped short of blaming the Environmental Protection Agency’s two clean air hammers: the 2011 Mercury Air Toxins rule and the 2015 Clean Power Plan.

“The workers and families impacted by these layoffs will bear the heaviest burden and the economy of all of Northwestern Pennsylvania will be adversely affected,” Casey said. “For years, these workers have labored to make GE a successful company, producing the best locomotives in the world.”

A slowdown in coal production means less coal to transport, Foster said. The federal government predicted that the industry will be down 92 million tons this year and another 27 million tons next year.

“About 68 percent of US coal shipments are delivered via rail,” Foster said. “When there is an impact to the coal industry, it directly impacts the rail industry.

To foresee any of this, one need only to look back to 2008, when Obama vowed to “bankrupt” coal plants.

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