By KANDACE MCCOY
MCLEANSBORO — Congressman John Shimkus joined local officials Friday in support of the coal mining industry and expressed opposition to proposed cap-and-trade legislation.
“This is really a cap-and-tax plan,” Shimkus (R, Ill.-19) stated in a press release. “I am here to state my plain and simple support for coal and the jobs we have here in mining and the potential new jobs, like those planned at mines and coal-fired power plants throughout my district.”
White Oaks has been working to open a long-wall coal mine in Hamilton County, and if the legislation passes through the Energy and Commerce Committee of which Shimkus is a member, he believes it could threaten potential jobs.
“Here in Southern Illinois, we have plentiful coal reserves that have been untapped,” he said during a press conference at the McLeansboro City Hall. “What great potential we have for good paying jobs here with White Oaks. My concern is under the premise of global warming, the solution is to put an added price on carbon emissions, which will affect jobs like this.”
Illinois Coal Association President Phillip Gonet added his support at the press conference.
“Congressman Shimkus understands you grow this economy by jobs and not by taxes and spending. Our coal reserves exceed the energy content of all the oil in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. We want to grow those jobs. ... But that may not happen if the cap-and-trade happens.”
Proponents of the proposed legislation, however, say the act will not only secure jobs, but also jump-start the economy.
“Illinois urgently needs new jobs, stable energy prices and freedom from dirty fossil fuels,” information from Matt McGovern of Repower Illinois stated. “For the first time, America has the opportunity to pass truly effective clean energy legislation to build a clean energy economy and create millions of jobs for American workers. The American Clean Energy and Security Act is the most important clean energy legislation in decades, and its passage is critical for putting America back on a path toward long term economic prosperity.”
Daryl Donjon, CEO and President of Wayne-White Counties Electric Cooperative, said the legislation was a “potentially devastating” prospect.
“It would allow the price of CO2 emissions to be established by Wall Street rather than Main Street,” he stressed. “It is an unfair tax to the Midwest and would raise electric rates by 80 percent.”
Shimkus said those who would “get hurt the most is rural America.”
“Estimates vary as to how much cap-and-trade will end up costing consumers. But electricity prices could go up somewhere between 44 and 129 percent. Gasoline prices could go up between 61 cents and $2.53 per gallon. Natural gas prices, for home heating and in fertilizer production, will go up between 108 and 146 percent,” Shimkus predicted.
Shimkus’ opponents claim the legislation could help not only reduce energy bills, but save “Illinois households $810 per year.”
“Illinois residents don’t want scare tactics, they want solutions,” McGovern said. “Now is the time to transition to clean energy and create the thousands of jobs Illinois desperately needs.”
Others joining Shimkus during the press conference were McLeansboro Mayor Dick Deitz, Hamilton County Board chairman and Rend Lake College board member Dr. Donald Mitchell and Rend Lake College President Charley Holstein.