SALINEVILLE, Ohio (WKBN) – After touring a local coal-mining company, valley Congressman Bill Johnson and new state Representative Tim Ginter know that working underground is not for the claustrophobic.
“These folks are down on their knees, eight hours a day. The roof in the mine is only 38 inches off the ground,” Johnson said.
The lawmakers spent about 90 minutes underground inside the Shean Hill Mine of the Sterling Mining Company near Salineville.
Its one of two coal mines the company owns in eastern Ohio. President Tom Mackall claims stiff federal regulations covering the use of coal have driven down his sales, forcing the company to scale back operations by twenty percent.
“We want a good environment. But we don’t need to go to the levels that they’re pushing us,” Mackall said. “And it’s dangerous for the country and dangerous for the economy.”
Johnson claimed coal-fired power plants provided 70 percent of Ohio’s energy needs last winter. He says for every mining job, there are at least three more created in spin-off or support industries, meaning a big impact in his district.
“We’ve got thirty-two hundred, roughly thirty-two hundred, coal miners in eastern and Southeastern Ohio,” Johnson said. “And then multiply that by three.”
But the lawmakers complain rule changes make it more difficult for companies like Sterling.
“It seems to change weekly,” Ginter said. “They cannot anticipate the regulations that are going to be forced upon them. They don’t know what’s coming.”
For now, Johnson hopes the Republican majorities on Capitol Hill can hold the EPA in check by cutting its funding.