CHARLESTON - West Virginia legislators both Democrat and Republican are loudly protesting the federal Environmental Protection Agency's plan to impose nationwide limitations on existing coal-fired power plants.
The new EPA rules would require a 30 percent reduction in the emissions from these plants over the next 15 years. The Mountain State's federal and state government leaders voiced negative opinions about the changes Monday.
In a media conference call Monday morning, Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said she has sat down with the West Virginia coal miners and their wives and families most deeply affected by the rules announced Monday.
"What we heard today is that people have already had their hours cut, their neighbors are relocating to other states and their friends who own ancillary businesses are already being affected by this attack on coal," Capito said. "But it will be even more so after today's announcement."
Capito said she did not have to educate the people she was talking with because they were already feeling the impact of the legislation.
"They understand what is going on and they feel very upset and frustrated and don't understand a policy that causes people to lose their jobs, have their hours cuts and move from their communities," Capito said. "And quite frankly, I can't explain it. I sent a letter to the president last week asking him not to move forward on these regulations."
Capito said she asked President Barack Obama to hold his EPA listening sessions in states that were deeply affected.
"This morning, they announced the listening sessions would be in Denver, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and D.C. They are not going to step foot in West Virginia," Capito said.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat, also addressed the new carbon dioxide emissions rules proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In a press release issued Monday, Tomblin said several of the proposals cause great concern.
"If these rules are put into place, our manufacturers may be forced to look overseas for more reasonable energy costs, taking good-paying jobs with them and leaving hardworking West Virginians without jobs to support their families," Tomblin said in the release. "We must make every effort to create opportunities for our young people, not hinder them."
Moving forward, Tomblin has pledged to form a working group of diverse voices from across the state to determine the impacts of new regulations and challenges for West Virginia's energy industry and opportunities to diversify the state's economy. The governor also said he is committed to bringing together governors from across the country to work together to strengthen the economy and protect seniors and working families from unaffordable electric costs.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., also spoke out Monday following the announcement of the EPA's proposed existing source performance standards for carbon dioxide emissions produced by fossil fuel power plants.
"There is no doubt that seven 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 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 that government needs to work as an ally, not as an adversary, when it comes to developing our nation's energy policies.
"I stand ready to work with this administration and the EPA to develop common sense solutions that strike a balance between a prosperous economy and a cleaner environment," Manchin said.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Republican, issued a statement Monday saying the proposal amounts to "a massive, job-killing energy tax which will disproportionately harm hard-working West Virginians."
"Let me be clear: My office will review every line, of every paragraph, of every page of this proposal and take all legal actions necessary to protect West Virginia jobs, uphold the rule of law and challenge this unprecedented attack on coal miners and their families," Morrisey said. "Like so many of the EPA's actions, this regulation strikes at the heart of a very reliable and affordable source of American energy - coal."
Morrisey said the proposal is a direct assault on existing coal-fired power plants and the hard-working West Virginians who mine the coal that keeps those plants alive.
"It also shows that President Obama has a callous disregard for the poverty plaguing West Virginia and our county," Morrisey said. "The Clean Air Act was not designed to permit the president to overhaul the nation's energy policy by executive decree. The EPA cannot simply usurp the state's role in setting environmental standards."
In response to the EPA's proposal, two West Virginia representatives said they will introduce legislation to block the proposed limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., and David McKinley, R-W.Va., said they want to stop the new rules from wreaking havoc on West Virginia's economy.
"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 his 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's bill would "block both the rule proposed Monday and an earlier proposal to limit carbon emissions from newly built power plants."