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Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

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Host: Scott LaMar

Smart Talk: Future of coal in PA

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Sep 10, 2014 2:46 PM

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Photo by Scott LaMar/WITF

What to look for on Smart Talk Thursday, September 11, 2014:

Is there a war on coal?  That's debatable but a war, or at least a battle over coal is being fought in Pennsylvania.

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed new rules that would require Pennsylvania to reduce carbon emissions by 32% within the next 16 years.  That would have an impact on the state's coal burning power plants.

The coal industry complains the new rules would cost thousands of jobs, increase the cost of electricity, and make the nation's power grid less reliable.

Supporters of the proposal say carbon dioxide from coal burning plants is the biggest source of pollution that leads to climate change.  They also say the health of children and older people is harmed by the emissions.

EPA wants more use of natural gas and renewable energies.  Ironically, there are environmentalists who are concerned that will mean a turn back to more nuclear power.

We'll hear from both sides of the conversation on Thursday's Smart Talk.  John Pippy, CEO of the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance and Rob Altenburg, a senior energy analyst with the environmental group Penn Future appear on the program.

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Rob Altenburg

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  • Bob Potter img 2014-09-11 07:52

    I sure hope there's a "war on coal". Coal is killing our lungs, our landscape, our fisheries, and our global climate. We need strong laws. Worked for acid rain.

  • Bob Potter img 2014-09-11 07:54

    The fossil carbon industry has a huge incentive to lie. Their jobs are at stake.

    The scientific community has a huge incentive NOT to lie. Their jobs are at stake.

  • Bob Nunn img 2014-09-11 08:13

    Haven't auto manufactures constantly been expected to improve their emissions? I don't recall anyone calling it a "war on cars". So why do politicians and coal manufactures think they're special, and shouldn't be expected to improve their emissions?

  • Bob Potter img 2014-09-11 08:16

    Way to misquote Nancy Pelosi, Mr. Pippy.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-09-11 08:22

    Martin in Boiling Springs emails:

    The term "war on coal" seems to be an attempt to portray the coal industry as a victim.

    Historically, the coal industry has used their muscle and politicians to ensure that they are loosely-regulated.

    Pennsylvania now has many miles of lifeless streams polluted with acid mine drainage which are now being cleaned up on the taxpayer's dime.

    Note that they are now advertising "clean coal" on billboards - something that does not exist as long as they fight scrubbers on the coal-fired electric generating plants.

  • Bob Potter img 2014-09-11 08:33

    I don't cry when drug dealers lose their jobs.
    I don't cry when tobacco workers lose their jobs.
    I don't much cry when coal workers lose their jobs.

    A carbon tax would produce plenty of money for retraining coal workers.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-09-11 08:41

    Laura in Lewisburg:

    I don't understand why no one is discussing the new exports of pea coal to China!! And, the new refineries in western PA.

    • Rob Altenburg img 2014-09-11 11:58

      Trade issues and refineries cause major concerns, as do many other issues such as the leakage of methane from our natural gas drilling. These issues are all important, but an hour on the radio just isn't enough to say everything that we want to say.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-09-11 08:50

    Pat in Waynesboro:

    The coal industry spokesman claimed that Germany is building more coal plants. Ones that are being built today were permitted years ago. It takes about five years from beginning of the process to coming online. No new plants are being permitted today. We cannot compare percentages globally because China skews the statistics!

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-09-11 08:51

    Fran in Lancaster:

    There are so many fallacies in Mr. Pippi's pitch, it's difficult to know where to start, but I'll start with the fact that energy companies are so rich and powerful that a "sledge hammer" is exactly what is called for to bring about healthier energy sources. To cite Germany as a country that is building coal plants is so infuriating, since that country is so far ahead of U.S. in using renewable energy successfully that we should hang our heads. Our country has barely tried to implement wind and solar. If we would begin and make renewables possible, rather than to continue to subsidize dirty energy, we would be that much further ahead in reducing harmful emissions.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-09-11 08:52

    Lee in York:

    I don't have a dog in the fight about coal burning, but I was walking by the radio and heard that the Chamber says 600,000 jobs will be lost in the country and maybe 6,000 in Pennsylvania (if I remember correctly). If Pennsylvania is such a major coal producing state but will only lose 1% of the jobs lost across the country, I'd have to question the numbers. They don't add up.

    • FranGo img 2014-09-11 11:03

      He uses numbers from the U.S. Chamber, then in the next paragraph suggests that we shouldn't get political??!!!

    • Rob Altenburg img 2014-09-11 11:36

      Since the EPA was created in 1970, every time environmental protection improves the industry representatives tell us how much damage it will do to the economy. Let's look at the track record: In over 40 years, we have a much cleaner and healthier environment and (adjusting for inflation) we pay less for electricity then we did back then.