Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 24, 2009

Lawmaker: Proposed CCS bill ‘essential to coal industry’

By CHARLES OWENS

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., introduced legislation Tuesday to advance the development and deployment of carbon capture and storage technologies.

Boucher was joined by a bipartisan delegation of lawmakers in supporting the measure. He said the technology, which is a method of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by capturing and injecting underground the carbon dioxide emitted from electricity generation plants that use fossil fuels, will reap benefits to both Southwest Virginia and southern West Virginia.

“The passage of our measure to assure the arrival of carbon capture and sequestrian technologies is essential to the long-term future of the coal industry, and the coal industry is a key part of the economy of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia — both today and it will be a key part of our regional economy for decades to come,” Boucher said. “The key to the coal industry having a vibrant future is the creation of carbon capture and sequestrian technology.”

Boucher, who spoke to the Daily Telegraph Tuesday afternoon before returning to the House floor, said the carbon capture technology was launched last summer in Southwest Virginia.

“We are presently conducting the largest test in the nation with the injection of carbon dioxide into an unmineable coal seam in Russell County,” Boucher said. “That (test) is continuing.”

Boucher said the legislation introduced Tuesday would establish a $1 billion annual fund derived from fees on the generation of electricity from coal, oil and natural gas. Grants from the fund will be awarded to large-scale projects advancing the commercial availability of the technology.

Boucher was joined in sponsorship of the bill by U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., US. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Ill., U.S. Rep. Tim Holden, D-Pa., U.S. Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Alab., U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., U.S. Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ind., U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., and U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson, D-Ohio.

“Coal is America’s most abundant domestic fuel, and today, coal accounts for more than one-half of the fuel used for electricity generation,” Boucher said. “Given our large coal reserves, its lower cost in comparison with other fuels, and the inadequate availability of fuel alternatives, preservation of the ability of electric utilities to continue coal use is essential. The legislation introduced today addresses this clear need by enabling electric utilities that use coal to have the continued ability to do so when a mandatory program is implemented to control greenhouse gas emissions.”

Boucher said if severe emissions reduction requirements are imposed before the carbon capture and storage technologies are available, the result would be a rapid switch from coal to other fuels. Boucher said such fuel switching would significantly increase electricity prices to the “detriment of both residential and industrial electricity consumers,” and would most likely result in far greater uses of natural gas for electricity generation. That would stress, according to Boucher, an already constrained natural gas supply and dramatically increase natural gas prices.

“Today 58 percent of U.S. homes are heated with natural gas, and numerous industries are heavily reliant on it,” Boucher said. “If large scale switching by utilities from coal to natural gas occurs, tens of millions of Americans would experience deep economic pain, and many domestic industries would be dislocated. The early arrival of CCS is essential to prevent this economic disruption in a carbon constrained economy.”

Rahall, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, also commented on the benefits of the carbon capture technology in a news release issued by Boucher’s office.

“The U.S. needs to rapidly advance research into, and development and deployment of, carbon capture and sequestration technologies,” Rahall said. “To achieve that, the small-scale work currently occurring must be ramped up and enlarged. Advances in CCS will help to ensure the continued use of abundant domestic coal and the employment of our miners, while providing affordable energy in an age of growing concern about climate change,.”

“We wholeheartedly support this legislation because it will allow our nation to responsibly address climate change by developing the technology needed to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions both here in the U.S. and around the world,” Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America, added in the press release issued by Boucher. “America must be a leader in developing and implementing CCS technology and this legislation will enable us to do that. Passage of this bill is critical for all Americans, including those who mine the coal that produces the energy needed to meet our nation’s current and ever-increasing demands.”

— Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline.com