A bi-partisan and multi-faceted summit on the coal industry Friday in Pittsburgh allowed government officials, workers, and corporations to comment on the issues surrounding the burning coal for electricity. Everything from jobs to clean coal technology was discussed. There was no clear general consensus, but all seemed to agree coal remains a large industry in southwestern Pennsylvania.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald says a national energy policy should work towards clean coal burning.
"[A national policy that] certainly takes into consideration the environmental concerns," Fitzgerald said, "but also utilizes coal, which is one of our biggest resources here in western Pennsylvania, and continuing to invest in the technology to make it viable-- to clean it up."
Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA-18) agrees with a national energy policy, but from a different perspective.
"We need a comprehensive energy policy in this country that has coal at the center of that," Murphy said. "Most of America's energy is coal."
Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA-14) also participated in the summit and said coal shouldn't be the only source of energy in the country.
"We want an energy portfolio in this country that's diverse," Doyle said. "We want to use all of the energy that we have-- every form."
Doyle said the future of coal "lies in technology."
"We simply are not going to be able to burn coal the way we burned it in the old days," Doyle said.
Jack Shea, President of the Allegheny County Labor Council, said if coal is eliminated as a source of energy, it's more than just the coal miners' jobs on the chopping block.
"It's our boilermakers, its our building trades, it's our steelworkers, it's so much of us," Shea said. "When we turn that light on, that's account of we got coal miners way under the Earth, digging that stuff up."
The Boilermakers Union Local 154 organized the event which also featured representatives from Consol Energy, First Energy, Pennsylvania Energy Development and others.