CHARLESTON – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin joined with federal and state officials as well as business and labor leaders to address the new carbon dioxide emission rules proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday.
“The EPA’s new rules are an extensive 645 pages long and at first glance, there are several proposals that cause us great concern,” Gov. Tomblin said. “If these rules are put into place, our manufacturers may be forced to look overseas for more reasonable energy costs, taking good paying jobs with them and leaving hardworking West Virginians without jobs to support their families. We must make every effort to create opportunities for our young people, not hinder them.”
West Virginia representatives joining Tomblin at Tuesday’s press conference included Congressman Nick Rahall, Congresswoman Shelly Moore Capito, W.Va. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, UMWA President Cecil Roberts and WV Coal Association President Bill Raney.
“This is an unprecedented use of the Clean Air Act to wage war on an entire industry,” Rahall said. “Rather than requiring individual plants to meet pollution control standards by installing pollution controls, EPA is now interpreting the law to give it the ability to set standards across fleets of coal-fired power plants, seeking to make reductions in a nebulous fashion. This is overt bootstrapping and makes this proposal even more attractive to legislate or litigate against.”
Earlier Tuesday, Rahall announced that he will introduce legislation with Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) to terminate the new rule for existing power plants, along with the proposed rule for future power plants. Last week, Rahall took to the House floor to speak against the rule announced today.
“I will introduce bipartisan legislation to block EPA from hijacking the Clean Air Act to target carbon emissions from existing coal-fired power plants in the manner it is proposing,” Rahall said. “When the time is ripe, I will also join in litigation to stop these rules from taking effect.”
Congresswoman Capito said the State was under attack from the EPA.
“We are truly under attack in West Virginia. This new rule will have catastrophic consequences for our economy, our coal families and our communities. This morning I was talking to coal miners and the wives of coal miners in Danville about the deep and personal struggles that have resulted from the War on Coal already, let alone from these new devastating regulations,” Capito said. “Our people are hurting, and they are sickened by President Obama and his anti-coal allies taking away their jobs, taking away their money, and telling them how to live their lives.”
“The people I met with today are tired of being treated like they don’t matter by President Obama and his allies in Washington. West Virginians do matter. Our coal jobs matter. Our livelihoods matter. And I’m fighting with everything I’ve got for the people of West Virginia.”
Morrisey said the EPA’s proposal amounts to a massive, job-killing energy tax, which will disproportionally harm hard-working West Virginians.
“Let me be clear: My Office will review every line, of every paragraph, of every page of this proposal and take all legal actions necessary to protect West Virginia jobs, uphold the rule of law, and challenge this unprecedented attack on coal miners and their families,” Morrisey said. “Like so many of the EPA’s actions, this regulation strikes at the heart of a very reliable and affordable source of American energy — coal. This proposal is a direct assault on existing coal-fired power plants and the hard-working West Virginians who mine the coal that keeps these plants online. It also shows that President Obama has a callous disregard for the poverty plaguing West Virginia and our country.”
Morrisey said the proposed regulation is contrary to law, and, if finalized, should be struck down by the courts.
“The Clean Air Act was not designed to permit the President to overhaul the nation’s energy policy by executive decree,” Morrisey said. “The EPA cannot simply usurp the state’s role in setting environmental standards. The Office of Attorney General will fight this unlawful action by the Obama EPA at every step of the way.”
UMWA President Roberts issued the following statement:
“The proposed rule issued today by the Environmental Protection Agency will lead to long-term and irreversible job losses for thousands of coal miners, electrical workers, utility workers, boilermakers, railroad workers and others without achieving any significant reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions.
“Our initial analysis indicates that there will be a loss of 75,000 direct coal generation jobs in the United States by 2020. Those are jobs primarily in coal mines, power plants, and railroads. By 2035, those job losses will more than double to 152,000. That amounts to about a 50 percent cut in these well-paying, highly skilled jobs. When a U.S. government economic multiplier used to calculate the impact of job losses is applied to the entire economy, we estimate that the total impact will be about 485,000 permanent jobs lost. This is simply a recipe for disaster in America’s coalfields, especially the eastern coalfields.”
Not attending the event was Senators Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller, although both issued statements regarding the new rules.
“There is no doubt that seven billion people have had an impact on our world’s climate; however, the proposed EPA rule does little to address the global problem with global solutions. Instead, today’s rule appears to be more about desirability rather than reliability or feasibility, with little regard for rising consumer prices, the effects on jobs and the impact on the reliability of our electric grid. The President’s own Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that coal will continue to provide nearly a third of our electricity through 2040, but the rule seems to ignore that reality,” Mancin said. “The EPA has proposed rules that are not based on any existing technology that has been proven on a commercial scale. That is why we must continue to invest in innovative technologies, including clean coal and natural gas technologies, to ensure our energy supply remains accessible, affordable and reliable for all Americans. Our great country should be a leader in developing the technologies so that we can export them to the world, but it is unreasonable to require the use of technologies that do not yet work at the commercial scale.
“Fossil fuel energy is vital to our nation’s economy and security. It will be a resource that our country depends on as we move forward - the EIA estimates that around 80 percent of our electricity will still come from fossil fuels more than twenty years from now. We must lead the world toward the time when fossil fuels burn cleaner until they can eventually provide minimal or no emissions at all. The world consumes more than 8 billion tons of coal per year, while the U.S. and Europe each burn less than one billion tons per year. The U.S. has already been a leader in proving to the world that we can produce coal cleaner today. Utilities and their providers have already reduced carbon emissions by 23 percent compared to 2005 levels, and are projected to reduce carbon emissions by an additional 15 percent by 2020. With the right policies and the right coordination between the public and private sectors, we can go much further.
“I have said again and again that government needs to work as an ally, not as an adversary, when it comes to developing our nation’s energy policies. I stand ready to work with this Administration and the EPA to develop commonsense solutions that strike a balance between a prosperous economy and a cleaner environment.”
Unlike other representatives, Rockefeller did not denounce the new rules, but urged the State to take the new rules as an opportunity to better our health and build a stronger future.
“The EPA announced today a major step in reducing carbon emissions, and I support its goal of safeguarding the public’s health. Strengthening West Virginians’ health and well being has always been at the heart of my career in public service,” Rockefeller said. “I understand the fears that these rules will eliminate jobs, hurt our communities, and drive up costs for working families. I am keenly focused on policy issues that affect West Virginians’ health and their livelihoods. However, rather than let fear alone drive our response, we should make this an opportunity to build a stronger future for ourselves. West Virginians have never walked away from a challenge, and I know together we can create a future that protects our health, creates jobs, and maintains coal as a core part of our energy supply. Already, we’ve seen successes with clean coal technology in West Virginia, and countries around the world are innovating to reduce carbon emissions from coal. We have the brightest minds and the competitive spirit to solve this challenge – but achieving this goal means finding the political will to invest real federal dollars in clean coal technology rather than continuing to rely solely on the private sector.
“The threat that climate change and unhealthy air pose to all of our futures cannot be understated. And, the costs of inaction are far greater than the costs of action.”
West Virginia draws 96 percent of its electricity from coal, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. It also produces the second-most coal in the country, though the industry has waned in recent years.
The rule is central to President Barack Obama’s plans to reduce pollution tied to global warming. Emission goals vary state by state, and states have flexibility in planning how to meet their marks. The Environmental Protection Agency rule isn’t a requirement for each coal plant. Instead, it applies as an average rate across the state’s total energy production. It aims to drop emissions by 30 percent nationally by 2030, compared to 2005.
States must submit individual plans to comply by June 2017, or by June 2018, if they work with other states.
West Virginia would need to reduce emissions by 19.8 percent by 2030, compared to 2012.
Gov. Tomblin has pledged to form a working group of diverse voices from across the state to determine the impacts of new regulations and challenges for West Virginia’s energy industry and opportunities to diversify the state’s economy. The governor is also committed to bringing together governors from across the country to work together to strengthen our economy and protect seniors and working families from unaffordable electric costs.
— Editors Note — A report by the Associated Press was used in compiling this article.