Coal was king for another day in Pittsburgh Wednesday as activists debated how long that reign would -- or should -- continue.
Gov. Tom Corbett joined West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and about 2,000 more coal industry supporters at a riverside rally opposing proposed federal regulations curbing greenhouse gases from coal-burning power plants.
The event at Station Square's Highmark Stadium was one part of the partisan prelude to hearings in Pittsburgh Thursday and Friday over the controversial emission curbs. A little later, across the Monongahela River, groups favoring the Environmental Protection Agency initiative made their case on the steps of the City-County Building.
Amid signs and T-shirts proclaiming, "Stop the war on Coal,'' Mr. Corbett and other industry advocates argued that the EPA rules would hurt employment and raise the specter of power shortages.
"It's about common sense,'' Mr. Corbett contended. "We had a pretty cold winter. Unfortunately, I think we are going to have another one ... when you're freezing in the dark I wouldn't consider that an environmental victory.“
He spoke to an enthusiastic crowd that half filled the grandstand and spilled onto the field of the soccer stadium along the Mon.
"We're simply asking that they back off and work with the states,'' said Mr. Tomblin, a Democrat similarly opposed to the administration proposal.
Ms. Taylor likened the prospective regulations to the Affordable Care Act.
"I've seen this movie before and let me tell you, it doesn't end well for us,'' she said. "It sounds to me like if you like your affordable, reliable energy, you can keep it.''
"We should do as [Ohio Gov. John] Kasich said: dig it; clean it; and burn it.''
Mr. Corbett argued that the emissions curbs would threaten as many as 63,000 coal-related jobs in Pennsylvania.
"Anything that seeks to or has the effect of shutting down coal-fired plants is an assault on Pennsylvania jobs, consumers and those who rely upon affordable, abundant, domestic energy,'' he said.
On Thursday and Friday, officials of the Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection will join the parade of witnesses protesting the federal regulations. They were to make the case for an alternative state-crafted plan designed to curb emissions at less cost to the industry.
The EPA plan aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants by 30 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. The coal industry contends that the regulations, if enacted, would kill jobs and imperil energy supplies, contentions echoed throughout the Highmark rally.
James P. O'Toole: email@example.com or 412-263-1562. Madeline R. Conway: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1714 or on Twitter @MadelineRConway. First Published July 30, 2014 12:00 AM