Dave Mistich Published

State Environmental Regulators, Coal and Power Industries Submit Comments on EPA Carbon Rules


State environmental regulators and leaders of the coal and power industries announced yesterday they’d filed comments on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rules that aim to reduce carbon emissions.

Governor Tomblin said the Department of Environmental protection worked with the West Virginia Division of Energy and the state Public Service Commission in filing a nearly 70 page document responding to the proposed rules . At a news conference Monday, Tomblin called those rules “unprecedented” and “illegal.”

“If enacted this rule will have devastating impacts on the economy and our nation,” Tomblin said. “With the introduction of these proposed rules, the EPA has brazenly inserted itself into a role that goes far beyond its responsibility under the Clean Air Act.”

Officials from the West Virginia Coal Association and Appalachian Power joined Tomblin in condemning the EPA, claiming the rules would increase electricity rates, while reducing carbon emissions by less than one percent.

The rules, proposed in June, seek to reduce carbon emissions at existing power plants by 30 percent nationally by the year 2030. If the rule is approved as is, West Virginia would have to cut its individual emissions by 15 percent compared to 2012 measurements. But along the way, West Virginia would have to make significant progress by 2020.

Appalachian Power President and COO Charles Patton argues that the EPA has ignored the fact that his company has already reduced carbon emissions by nearly 20 percent in recent years with the closure of old power plants and an increased use of natural gas. He also claims the rules’ implementation would cause coal fired power plants across the country to close.

“The question, I guess, that I would ask is: who believes that, if in five years you shut down one-third of the entire electric generating fleet in this country, that costs would not be impacted for normal customers and reliability would not be impacted in our ability to build—to replace—that which is shut down because of this rule?” Patton asked rhetorically.

Bill Raney of the West Virginia Coal Association said the proposed rules would take 49 gigawatts of power off the grid in the next five years. With Appalachian Power’s John Amos plant in Winfield producing about three gigawatts, Raney says that means about 16 similar-sized production locations would be shut down.

“You think about the economic devastation. Not only what it does to the locale where that plant might be located, but think about what it does to the grid. Taking a third of the generation capacity out and with an anticipated tough winter coming, I think we’re going to have some difficulties,” Raney said.

“They say ‘Well, this doesn’t take effect for a year or two years.’ But the uncertainty that is created causes people not to invest in the modernization that’s necessary to keep them working,” he added.

Raney said his organization collected over 12,000 comments from individuals across the state.

A report issued earlier this year by West Virginia University’s Center for Energy & Sustainable Development and other partners suggested the state focus on energy efficiency and increasing the use of natural gas to help meet the new standard. Governor Tomblin said the state has made efforts to increase the use of natural gas, wind and hydroelectric energy sources, as well as conservation and renovation programs. Still, he says the carbon emissions rules are too costly for the coal industry.

“Those things we are doing but, at the same time, our production of electricity for a century has been based the use of on coal in West Virginia. It’s affordable, it’s reliable and it’s one of those things that does not require constantly new power plants to be built,” Tomblin explained.

Monday was the final day for comments to be submitted to the EPA on the proposed rule.

You can view the Department of Environmental Protections comment here