Well now isn’t this interesting.

Throughout the seemingly endless battle over climate-change legislation, not once have the folks behind the biggest source of climate pollution — coal executives — been asked to publicly account for their industry’s role. Now it looks like they will.

On Wed. April 14 at 9:30am, the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming will hold a hearing called “The Role of Coal in a New Energy Age.”

For the first time in recent memory, the CEOs of America’s top two coal mining companies, and a leading international company, will come to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to answer questions on their positions on climate change, clean energy policy, and the challenges that currently face their industry.

Testifying will be:

  • Gregory Boyce, President and CEO, Peabody Energy Corp
  • Steven Leer, Chairman and CEO, Arch Coal Inc
  • Preston Chiaro, Chief Executive for Energy and Minerals, Rio Tinto
  • Michael Carey, President, Ohio Coal Association

These are big dogs. Peabody is the largest private-sector coal company in the world; Arch Coal is the second largest supplier of coal in the U.S. Both are heavily invested in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, the nation’s largest source of low-sulfur coal, which is expected to expand and prosper in coming years, climate legislation or no climate legislation. Both are among the top industry contributors to U.S. Congresscritters. Rio Tinto is also one of the largest coal mining companies in the world and the second largest producer in the U.S.

The Ohio Coal Association is a trade group that advocates for Ohio’s coal industry and has supported efforts to block EPA regulations of CO2. After the House vote on the Waxman-Markey bill, the OCA bought billboards throughout the state attacking Ohio Rep. Zack Space (D) for voting yes. They read, “Like a puppet on a string, Congressman Space danced to Nancy Pelosi’s tune in voting for the National Energy tax.”

Notably absent: Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy and owner of the Upper Big Branch Mine, site of the recent disaster that saw the deaths of at least 25 coal miners.

Regardless, these are some of the big players. It will be very revealing to see them asked publicly, as far as I know for the first time, whether they believe in climate change and, if they do, how they account for their industry’s role in it.

I’ll be watching with popcorn!