By Jon Cassidy | Ohio Watchdog
TROY – Eleven of Ohio’s 26 coal-fired power plants will have to close by 2015, thanks to restrictive new federal regulations, a spokesman for the Ohio Coal Association said Tuesday night.
That means local electric bills rising by an average of 19 percent, Doug Matheney, a former coal miner and Jackson County commissioner, told some 300 people at an energy-themed town hall meeting in Troy, Miami County.
Most of Ohio’s coal and natural gas production is on the opposite side of the state from Troy, but Republican Senate candidate Josh Mandel said a lot of the state economy depends on the energy industry, from tanker manufacturers in Kent to pipe and tube makers nearby.
Some local manufacturers have gone under during the recession, but there’s no reason the region couldn’t be vital again, Mandel said.
“We have the tradition, we have the infrastructure, and we have the men and women with the tool set,” he said.
Throughout the event, hosted by Americans for Prosperity and Miami County Liberty, participants criticized Sen. Sherrod Brown, D–Ohio, for his recent vote on one of the new regulations afflicting the coal industry.
Unlike most Democrats in coal states, Brown voted against a resolution that would have blocked the so-called UMACT Rule ordered by the Environmental Protection Agency. At $10 billion a year, the rule is the costliest the agency has ever imposed.
It’s just one of several new EPA emissions rules that will cost the industry $127 billion in the first six years of implementation, Matheney said.
As the state gets almost 90 percent of its electricity from coal, the closures mean Ohio is losing 31 percent of its generating capacity, which is why electric bills will be going up, Matheney said.
Brown’s position is that there is no conflict.
“I reject the false choice between having clean air to breath and a job to support a family,” he has said.
Mandel got three standing ovations during the event, demonstrating the skills that have brought the 34-year-old from obscurity to the brink of national success.
First, he brought the audience in, making them a part of what he’s doing. He told the story of his run for Lyndhurst City Council on a platform of cutting property taxes, and then cutting them once elected. The moral of the story was that a 6-1 majority against cutting the tax flipped to 6-1 in favor after hundreds of people he met during the campaign all showed up to a city council meeting.
He fired the crowd up with well-crafted applause lines.
“We’re up against forces that are always on message but seldom tell the truth,” was one.
“Ladies and gentlemen, if Sherrod Brown was the answer, our problems would’ve been solved a long time ago,” went another.
He showed he could think on his feet. When an audience member asked why members of Congress get pensions rather than Social Security, Mandel said it was because they play by different rules, using the example of Brown’s repeated delinquency in paying property taxes on his home in Washington D.C.
Brown’s explanation for his delinquency on his 2006, 2007, and 2012 property tax bills was that “I misplaced the bill and I paid it as soon as I found out. I paid a penalty for being late, and it won’t happen again.”
Most important, Mandel talked about jobs, not in academic terms or generalities about tax cuts, but with examples that made development of the Utica Shale in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania sound like the Gold Rush.
In one Pennsylvania town he visited, the owner of a mom-and-pop diner who had been going out of business was about to become a millionaire, a struggling hardware store owner now owned a block, and the local McDonald’s was paying $20 an hour plus signing bonuses, so great was the demand for labor.