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Critics blast clean power announcement

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Parkersburg, August 13, 2015 | comments
Reaction was swift Monday from West Virginia officials over the stricter emission standards for coal-fired power plants by the Environmental Protection Agency.
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Parkersburg News and Sentinel
Published August 4,2015

PARKERSBURG - Reaction was swift Monday from West Virginia officials over the stricter emission standards for coal-fired power plants by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Among provisions the Clean Power Plan requires carbon pollution and greenhouse gases be reduced 32 percent below 2005 levels in 15 years and encourages renewable energy. Supporters cite the health benefits and protection of the climate.

"We are now squarely on the road toward a safer climate future," a statement from the Environmental Defense Fund said. "This is a proud moment for engaged citizens from the Heartland to the coasts who stood together united by their commitment to climate security for all Americans."

President Barack Obama speaks about his Clean Power Plan Monday in the East Room at the White House in Washington. The president is mandating even steeper greenhouse gas cuts from U.S. power plants than previously expected, while granting states more time and broader options to comply. (AP Photo)


But opponents say it will cause higher electric bills for customers, the West Virginia Business and Industry Council said.

"I equate the Clean Power Plan to a runaway train, wrecking everything in its path, to include our state's fragile economy," said Chris Hamilton, chairman of the council. "In West Virginia, we've already seen the closure or announced closure of multiple coal-fired power plants and the hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs these facilities employ. This doesn't account for the many coal mining jobs that will be lost due to the decreased use of coal to create low-cost electricity."

Alpha Natural Resources, a coal company in West Virginia, Monday said it was filing for bankruptcy protection prior to the announcement over the new emission rules. "It's no surprise that Alpha points to federal policies as part of the reason for its bankruptcy filing, especially when the president is just hours away from announcing the most extreme anti-coal regulations to date," Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said.

The council is asking Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to reject the Clean Power Plan, Hamilton said.

Tomblin said the EPA made changes, but the regulations remain unreasonable.

"While the DEP works on the report required by the Legislature, we continue to review our legal options and are working to determine what a federally developed state implementation plan would involve," he said.

House Bill 2004 passed by the Legislature this year requires the state Department of Environmental Protection to develop a detailed report for the Legislature that includes an analysis of the effect of the rule on the state, Tomblin said. The analysis could not begin until the EPA released its final rule, he said.

"While those who employ our hardworking miners have urged us to refuse to submit a compliance plan, at this point West Virginia still has not determined whether it will submit any plan to the EPA," Tomblin said. The analysis is to be completed within 180 days.

Senate President Bill Cole and House Speaker Tim Armstead issued a joint statement.

"The Legislature absolutely will not approve any State Implementation Plan that will cause more harm and bring more job losses to our state's coal industry," Cole said,.

"All leaders of our state will need to carefully consider whether West Virginia should submit a State Implementation Plan as required by the Clean Power Plan or instead take other steps to fight this latest round of federal overreach," Armstead said.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said the rule was "flatly illegal."

"The final rule announced Monday blatantly disregards the rule of law and will severely harm West Virginia and the U.S. economy," Morrisey said. "This rule represents the most far-reaching energy regulation in this nation's history, drawn up by radical bureaucrats and based upon an obscure, rarely used provision of the Clean Air Act. We intend to challenge it in court vigorously."

Ohio will be hard hit, Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, said.

"This rule is more evidence that President Obama is more interested in his 'legacy' than the concerns of hard-working Ohioans," he said.

The rule came as no surprise, Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., said.

"What this administration fails to see is the impact of their environmental policies on West Virginia. Power plants will shut down, raising the cost of electricity and threatening the ability of our grid to cope with winter storms and high demand. West Virginia coal miners will be unemployed and families will struggle to make ends meet," he said.

The West Virginia Coal Association said the regulations will endanger hundreds of power plants around the nation, raise the electric bills to the point of creating energy poverty for millions of Americans and endanger the electric grid.

The Clean Power Plan is a death penalty for coal jobs in West Virginia, West Virginia Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas said.

"Everything that has been said about this President and this administration, sadly, has come true. He hates West Virginia. And he hates the coal and energy jobs here that bring freedom to every American," Lucas said. "Today is just the final step to ensure that our children and grandchildren grow up in a world with less light, heat and prosperity than our prior generations."

Sen. Joe Manchin, the only Democrat in Congress from West Virginia, said the administration has been "utterly unrealistic when it comes to the role of coal in our energy future."

"Our president and his administration think our country can do without coal, and they are dead wrong. They are in denial," he said.

The regulation will have little impact on carbon dioxide levels, but will increase energy costs and damage the economy, Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., said.

"If we shut down every coal-fired power plant in America, according to the United Nations, we would reduce global carbon dioxide by only two 10ths of 1 percent," he said. "All this damage to our economy for .002 percent?"

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity said the president again demonstrated his lack of empathy for hard-working Americans, Mike Duncan, president and CEO of the group, said.

"Instead of putting their priorities first, the President shamefully put his political legacy first," he said.

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