The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

State News

June 3, 2014

Most of state’s elected officials oppose carbon emissions limits

— Reactions from state leaders to new Environmental Protection Agency guidelines that will reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent in 2030 could be reduced to one word.

Predictable.  

In an onslaught of e-mailed statements and press conferences, from Congress to Charleston, from incumbents to candidates, the message from West Virginia is clear — if the Obama administration and the EPA want to wage a war on  coal, the state is ready to stand its coal-filled ground and do battle.

In fact, if President Barack Obama was seeking a bi-partisan effort on climate change, he got one, but not perhaps the one he wanted. The state’s elected officials are marching together to oppose the first-ever carbon emissions regulations.

All but one.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., who will retire at the end of the year, said he supports the “safeguarding of the public’s health.” Rockefeller said he understands the fear that goes along with change, but said the state now has an opportunity — and a challenge.

“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,” Rockefeller said.

“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.”

Rockefeller said clean coal technology has seen some success, and state leaders should “find the political will” to invest federal money in that technology instead of relying solely on the private sector.

“The threat that climate change and unhealthy air pose to all of our futures cannot be understated,” he continued. “And, the costs of inaction are far greater than the costs of action.”

Of the remaining elected officials, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., came the closest, without going over, to saying there might be a need for some rules in order to avoid climate change.

“There is no doubt that 7 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,” Manchin said. “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.

Manchin said the EPA’s rules are not based on existing technology, and the country should continue to invest in clean coal and natural gas to ensure the energy supply remains accessible, affordable and reliable.

“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 20 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.”

In the U.S. House , Reps. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., and David McKinley, R-W.Va., say they will introduce legislation to block the EPA’s limits on carbon dioxide emissions.

“There is a right way and a wrong way of doing things, and the Obama administration has got it wrong once again,” Rahall said in a statement. “This new regulation threatens our economy and does so with an apparent disregard for the livelihoods of our coal miners and thousands of families throughout West Virginia.”

Rahall is one of the most vulnerable Democrats in this year’s midterm elections. His Republican opponent, West Virginia state Sen. Evan Jenkins, has sought to tie Rahall to Democratic and Obama administration policies that critics say harm the coal industry. Rahall has tried to push a pro-coal message.

Jenkins called the rules “devastating.”

“Today Washington, D.C., delivered yet another blow to West Virginia’s struggling economy. This administration has doubled-down on its war on coal,” Jenkins said. “They want to stop coal mining, coal production and coal-fired electricity. These rules are confirmation that they see no future for coal.”

U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., a candidate for U.S. Senate, also continued the war on coal theme, and predicted devastation to the state’s economy.

“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.”

Capito said the rules amount to a disregard for West Virginian’s livelihoods.

“West Virginians do matter. Our coal jobs matter. Our livelihoods matter,” she said.

Her opponent, Natalie Tennant, currently West Virginia’s Secretary of State, agreed with Capito, and rejected the regulatory approach as the “wrong way to go.”

“I will stand up to President Obama, Gina McCarthy and anyone else who tries to undermine our coal jobs. Washington bureaucrats need to understand, these are not numbers on a balance sheet, they are real people with families to feed,” Tennant said.

“I refuse to accept that we have to choose between clean air and good-paying jobs when I know West Virginia can lead the way in producing technology that does both.”

Instead of imposing regulations, Tennant says Washington should work with West Virginia to bring advanced technologies to market that will reduce carbon emissions, while also protecting jobs and keeping coal strong, competitive and affordable.

Tennant will unveil a broad Coal and Energy Jobs Agenda this week as part of a statewide Energy Tour that begins at a coal miner training facility in Sophia  today.

— E-mail: ppritt@register-herald.com

 

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