Sen. Shelley Moore Capito led a Senate hearing in southern West Virginia today focused on the local impacts of the Clean Power Plan. The Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee meeting took place at Chief Logan Conference Center in southern West Virginia. Capito is the subcommittee chairwoman. She was joined by Sen. Joe Manchin and U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins.
The meeting addressed regulations stalled in court that put limits on each state’s carbon output. Many West Virginia officials oppose them because the regulations increase stress on the coal industry.
“We cannot support rules that cause massive loss of jobs and income in already depressed, rural communities like southern West Virginia,” Eugene Trisko, council for the United Mine Workers of America testified. “We need instead a major infusion of research and development capital both federal and private to lower the costs of carbon capture technologies so that coal can continue to play a vital role in baseload power generation.”
At the hearing, Wayne County Commissioner and former County Clerk Robert Pasley painted a picture of the tough realities southern West Virginian counties especially face given the downturn in coal severance taxes as the coal industry has continued to decline.
“We did give $50,000 to our volunteer fire department for an ambulance for our people,” Pasley said. “We had a program where we had two police cruisers replaced every year for our sheriff’s department. This will be the third year that we haven’t been able to do that. We’re going to be in critical need before long. Capital building projects, senior citizen programs, utilities, economic development, and many other worthwhile projects were part of this coal severance that we no longer have.”
Politicians also heard emotional testimony from local coal miner Jimmy Dale "Bo" Copley II:
“Our family’s faith in God is our provider has allowed us to carry on with our everyday life. Our god is able to bring his people through any circumstance. We believe that West Virginians’ unwavering faith in God is what will separate us from those who mean to do us harm. ”
James Van Nostrand, professor and director of the West Virginia University College of Law's Center for Energy and Sustainable Development also spoke. Extending the “war on coal” metaphor, he spoke about the artillery being waged against the coal industry. Van Nostrand likened cheap natural gas and other economic forces to an aircraft carrier. Whereas the Clean Power Plan is a much less significant weapon...
“In terms of its impact, it’s something like a shoulder-fired rocket launcher,” he said, “a tool to be deployed in minor skirmishes - but it’s not going to win a war.”
Van Nostrand said leaders in the state should be more focused on the energy revolution that’s underway, and stressed that there is hope for economic revitalization even if coal will likely play a smaller overall role in the state’s economy.