During their "listening tour" of the country several months ago, Environmental Protection Agency officials claimed they wanted a cross-section of Americans' opinions about proposed new rules that would cripple the coal-fired electric power industry. They planned the tour carefully to avoid criticism, however.
EPA officials visited 11 cities during the tour. Not one of their public hearings was held in any of the 10 states where residents and businesses rely most on reasonably priced electricity from coal.
But West Virginians, Ohioans and Pennsylvanians worried about the war on coal and reasonably priced electricity are getting another chance to make their anger known.
EPA officials have announced four two-day hearings on the "Clean Power Plan" President Barack Obama ordered the agency to implement.
One of those hearings will be held Thursday and Friday in Pittsburgh.
That is as close to West Virginia and Ohio as EPA officials have dared to come in their public meetings about the war on coal.
The Pittsburgh hearings may well be the best opportunity residents of our area have to defend ourselves against dramatically higher electric bills and wrecked economies.
Time to act is short. Existing EPA regulations and the threat of new ones already have prompted utilities to close or plan to shut down hundreds of coal-fired generating units. Electric bills already are increasing. If Obama and the EPA proceed, increases to date will seem mild.
EPA officials are likely to hear more complaints during this round of hearings than they did previously. Other sessions have been scheduled in Washington, D.C.; Atlanta, Ga.; and Denver, Colo. That last state relies on coal for 64 percent of its electricity.
Coal supplies 95 percent of the power in West Virginia, 69 percent in Ohio and 40 percent in Pennsylvania, however.
The Pittsburgh hearing is an opportunity for those who will be hurt worst by the EPA to express their concern - and anger - about it.
If you can attend the Pittsburgh hearings in person, we encourage you to do so. If not, submit your comments in writing online at the EPA's website, www2.epa.gov.
Again, the Pittsburgh hearing is important. It may be the only time EPA officials venture near coal country. West Virginians and Ohioans should take advantage of the opportunity.