President Obama touches on coal during State of the Union address

Published: Jan. 12, 2016 at 10:38 PM EST
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WASHINGTON (AP & WSAZ) -- During his final State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Barack Obama signaled that coal companies could face higher charges when mining on federal lands.

Obama said he's going to push to change the way the federal government manages its oil and coal resources to better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and the planet.

Environmental groups have been telling the Bureau of Land Management during public hearings in recent months that the current royalty rates don't provide taxpayers with a fair return on the country's natural resources and encourage global warming.

The government charges a rate of 12.5 percent. That's 50 percent below what it charges for offshore oil and gas drilling.

Leaders of the hard-hit coal industry say any increase will be passed on to consumers in the form of higher utility rates.

U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., issued the following statement regarding President Obama’s final State of the Union address:

“The president used this speech to try to define his legacy, but in West Virginia, we already know what his legacy will be. In West Virginia, he will be remembered for higher state unemployment, closing our coal mines, raising our electricity prices, increasing our healthcare costs, limiting our Second Amendment rights, jeopardizing our national security, weakening our role in the world, and diminishing hope for our middle-class families.

“Because of the president’s policies, West Virginia’s economy is in decline. This administration’s anti-coal policies make it harder and harder to mine coal, burn coal, and provide good jobs for our coal miners and related industries.

“This State of the Union was yet another missed chance to work with Congress and unite the American people behind ideas, principles and leadership that will reinvigorate West Virginia and make our nation safer.”

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., issued the following statement:

“In his final State of the Union, I had hoped the president would lay out a plan to improve the bleak economic outlook in West Virginia and other states. Instead, he vowed to move forward with catastrophic regulations that threaten jobs and impede energy development while doing little to actually improve the environment. West Virginia has been crushed by the president’s policies, already shedding jobs by the thousands.

“With national security and the threat of ISIS at the forefront of Americans’ minds, the president offered little to ease these concerns. We must have a better strategy to destroy ISIS, to vet refugees coming into the country and to combat other emerging threats both at home and abroad.

“In mentioning the drug epidemic that is growing in West Virginia and across the country, the president highlighted an issue where Republicans and Democrats can work together. In the year ahead, I will continue to look for solutions to end addiction, improve access to treatment and stem this mounting public health concern.

“In his final year in office, the president should commit to working with Congress to confront the many challenges we face instead of governing by executive order. Doing so would fulfill his promise to change the way things are done in Washington.”