The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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June 4, 2014

Tennant plan would promote ‘all of the above’ energy options

U.S. Senate candidate visits Robert C. Byrd's hometown

SOPHIA — A day after the Environmental Protection Agency’s new carbon emissions were unveiled launching a chorus of “catastrophe” from West Virginia’s political leaders, Secretary of State and candidate for U.S. Senate Natalie Tennant revealed her own energy plan in Sen. Robert C. Byrd’s hometown.

“We’re coming off a rough day yesterday; those regulations don’t necessarily work for us,” Tennant said.

The EPA’s guidelines call for a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030.

Tennant said she doesn’t believe that EPA regulations will help the state’s coal industry progress.

“I just don’t think we should have to give up clean air for good paying jobs,” she said. Instead, she said, the state should use advanced technology.

“We can get to the goal, but don’t use regulations, use investment,” Tennant said. “Make the goals realistic.”

Tennant’s plan calls for promoting “all of the above” energy options, including coal, natural gas, wind and solar.

A Democrat, Tennant said she opposes President Barack Obama and the EPA’s “reckless and unrealistic regulations on coal-fired power plants that threaten our coal jobs.”

But she acknowledged that it isn’t sufficient to “just say no.” Instead, she said, clean coal technologies can be developed that would both strengthen the coal industry and cut carbon emissions.

“I’ve seen it and I believe it,” she said.

Tennant also proposed tax credits for energy companies that develop carbon capture and sequestration strategies.

The candidate said she is not only pro-coal, she is also pro-miner and toward that end, proposed the Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act. The act strengthens protection for whistleblowers who report safety concerns and increases Mine Safety and Health Administration oversight and accountability, as well as reduces safety risks associated with coal dust for miners. Miners would also be able to communicate with one another about poor conditions.

“It’s been four years since that legislation was introduced,” she said. “This bill has been delayed too long.”

Tennant talked about ensuring that miners have the benefits in retirement that they were promised when they were hired. She said she supports legislation that reforms bankruptcy laws so that workers and retirees will not “be on the losing end in court.”

She asked for audience participation and she got it.

“What future do you want to see and how do we get there?” she asked.

Donnie Coleman, who owns Southern Safety Inc., where the event took place, said the coal industry is the victim of bad press, other energy industries and regulations.

“The government has to support coal,” Coleman said. “If they get behind it, it will succeed.”

Coleman said some environmental regulations, as well as some safety regulations, cost coal companies money, but don’t have the intended result.

“If it doesn’t really help, why have it?” he questioned.

Stagecoach Salon owner John Fanary agreed that coal has been pushed aside for other energy options.

“The natural gas people are wearing us out,” Fanary said. “They’re spending thousands of dollars to defeat coal and make us look bad.”

Fanary said the coal industry “helped make this country great.”

“People need to understand that,” he said.

Tennant is next headed to Gilmer County where she will talk about the energy possibilities from natural gas, and then to Morgan County where Mountain View Solar Panels are manufactured.

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