The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


March 14, 2014

Keith Rothfus | Owning up to job-destroying regulations

JOHNSTOWN — Would you believe that the cost of regulations is your family’s second largest expense? At more than $14,000, it amounts to almost a third of an average Pennsylvania family’s annual income, according to the Center for Regulatory Solutions.

That is more than the cost of food and transportation combined.

Good regulations are necessary, but excessive regulations hurt the economy and every family and worker in our western Pennsylvania communities and across the nation.

Few have been harmed more by excessive regulation than our coal miners and their communities. Miners like Dan Miller, an electrician at the Madison Mine in Mineral Point, work hard every day to power our schools, factories, hospitals, stores and streetlights and provide the raw materials for the steel industry.

Their way of life is being purposely regulated out of existence. That fact represents a threat not only to their families and communities but to each of yours as well in the form of higher energy costs and fewer people buying from local businesses.

Coal miners are hesitant to spend their hard-earned pay because they worry that President Obama’s war on coal will cost them their livelihoods.

Many find themselves asking, “Should I buy a new car or make this one last even longer? Should I make any big financial commitment when I could find myself out of a job in six weeks or six months?”

Before the start of each shift at the mine, all the miners take a knee, talk about strategies to stay safe underground and hear about what is down the road for the mine and the company.

The miners are frustrated with all the regulations coming from Washington, D.C. They are forced to spend significant amounts of time complying with endless red tape instead of doing their real jobs producing energy, resting or spending time with family and friends.

After the shift ends, miners get together before heading home and ask, “Is this war on coal ever going to end or are we all going to be out there looking for new jobs?”

Western Pennsylvania has a productive history, and we benefit today from improvements in technology and regulations that allow us to produce energy more safely and efficiently and with a greatly-reduced impact on the environment.

However, there is a sense that the goal is no longer continuous improvement but the ideological elimination of a way of life and an essential pillar of our economy.

This way of life means jobs for steelworkers, power-plant workers, boilermakers, carpenters and truck drivers. It means jobs for the limestone miners who make rock dust and the people who make roof bolts, pumps and conveyor belts. It means business for diners and mom-and-pop shops on Main Streets across western Pennsylvania.

These coal miners coach football, soccer, baseball and softball. Others are band boosters or Scout masters. Many participate in parent-teacher organizations or organize and contribute to school and church fundraisers. They are pillars supporting their communities. Who will fill the gap if they lose their jobs?

In an effort to improve thoughtful consideration of the consequences of regulations, the House recently passed the Rothfus/Barr Amendment requiring bureaucrats to acknowledge if their regulations will have a negative impact on wages or jobs in a particular industry.

Any such regulation would be subject to additional review to ensure that the benefits justify the costs to families and communities. The principle is simple: If federal bureaucrats are going to implement rules that take wages or jobs from hardworking Americans, they should take responsibility for and justify their decisions. It is important that regulators think through the impacts, costs and burdens that red tape imposes on families and communities.

This pro-jobs legislation joins the queue of dozens of pro-jobs bills the House has forwarded to the Senate in the past year.

If you spend time in the mines, you will often hear that “you are your brother’s keeper.” Coal miners take care of and look out for each other. President Obama and the Senate should join us in standing in solidarity with coal miners and other workers by approving H.R. 2804.

U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus serves the 12th Congressional District, which includes parts of Cambria and Somerset counties.

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