U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee, held a field hearing this week in Beckley, regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan. The carbon pollution standards are the first of their kind and aim is to reduce carbon emissions 30 percent nationwide by reducing carbon pollution from power plants. Senator Capito held a hearing in southern West Virginia where tightening regulations might be felt most acutely.
Sen. Capito and U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, both Republicans, expressed grave concern for West Virginia’s economic future in light of the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan.
“We’re going to hear the voices of West Virginians on the devastating impact of the regulation of our fellow West Virginians, because we know we receive 95 percent of our power from coal-fired power plants,” Capito said.
Capito pointed to recent announcements that three more coal-fired plants in West Virginia are scheduled to close in the coming months, blaming the closures on the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxins rule.
Rep. Jenkins also spoke about the economic perils of scaling back coal-fired power in West Virginia.
“Coal is an abundant resource in America,” Jenkins said, “Why are we forsaking one of our largest sources of affordable energy to put ourselves at an economic disadvantage?”
Witnesses who discussed the negative economic impacts of proposed carbon regulations in Appalachia included an attorney for the United Mine Workers of America, Eugene Trisko.
“This regulation is a neutron bomb,” said Trisko during his prepared statement.
President of Appalachian Power, Charles Patton, and a local businessman Chuck Farmer also testified that an increasingly difficult business climate is making life tougher for rate payers and employees.
Literally and figuratively on the other side of the aisle sat the Union of Concerned Scientists' Senior Energy Analyst, and West Virginia native, Jeremy Richardson.
“92 percent of our coal reserves must stay in the ground to give us any hope of avoiding the worst consequences of climate change,” Richardson said.
“Thankfully West Virginia has many assets that it can leverage to diversify its economy,” Richardson said. “But we must let go of the idea that coal is all we’ve got.”
Along with Richardson, Director of the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development at WVU College of Law, James Van Nostrand testified about inevitable changes we face both here and around the globe. He said West Virginia needs to take a more proactive stance legislatively in dealing with this challenging reality, if we hope to mitigate the economic impacts.