HARRISBURG – State Sen. Rich Kasunic (D-Fayette) and John Wozniak (D-Cambria) have been named to the newly-formed, 13-member Bipartisan Legislative Coal Caucus.
“Coal has been a longstanding regional economic driver and a good livelihood for thousands of area families for generations,” Kasunic said. “I am hopeful this new formalized legislative caucus will take an aggressive position on economic, safety and jobs issues that impact the industry.”
Wozniak added, “While I have worked cooperatively on ways to improve the profitability and safety of Pennsylvania’s coal industry for many years, this new formalized bipartisan caucus will hopefully energize and amplify legislative efforts to help the industry overcome its challenges and thrive.”
While the coal caucus has been informally in existence for many years, Wozniak and Kasunic said they hope the newly-formed caucus, under the leadership of Sen. Tim Solobay (D-Washington) and Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), will be more active and aggressive on issues impacting the industry. The lawmakers credited Solobay with spearheading efforts to urge the reconsideration of a recent decision to close two coal-fired power plants in southwestern Pennsylvania.
In addressing the caucus’ agenda, Kasunic said lawmakers need to take a balanced approach that continues to incorporate coal and the advancing technologies that are making coal-generated electricity cleaner and more efficient. Kasunic, who sponsored the 2008 Bituminous Coal Mine Act, also emphasized that the caucus should continue to work with company officials and miners to improve safety and working conditions in mines. He said the caucus should also press federal lawmakers to act against companies that orchestrate corporate transactions aimed at shedding legacy costs and the responsibility to pay worker pension benefits.
Wozniak added that he will urge the caucus to take a strong stand against the new Environmental Protection Agency emission regulations that he said are “unnecessarily harsh, could threaten the state’s power grid, and could devastate the coal industry and the region’s struggling economy.