Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 5, 2013

Listening tour: Is the EPA listening to lawmakers?

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— A growing chorus of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia lawmakers are renewing their call on federal Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy to bring her so-called “listening tour” to the coalfields of the Mountain State and the Commonwealth.

In recent days, U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey have all called upon McCarthy to bring the EPA’s listening tour to the region. The EPA has launched the public meetings as a way to meet with stakeholders, and to gather input from the public as it relates to developing carbon pollution standards for existing coal-fired plants.

Common sense would dictate that such listening tour hearings should be held right here in the coalfields of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia. But have any of these listening tour meetings been scheduled in our region? Of course not. They are instead being strategically scheduled in areas where the Obama administration knows environmentalists will come out in force, according to Griffith.

Is that fair or even ethical? Of course not. But what should we expect from a president and an administration that continues to wage a war on coal.

Regardless of your political affiliation, both Democratic and Republican lawmakers in our region appear united in their call for local listening tour meetings right here in the coalfields of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia.

Rockefeller, in fact, is calling upon McCarthy to honor an earlier pledge to hold such meetings in West Virginia.

“You have previously indicated that you would come to West Virginia to listen to the concerns of our communities about the impact of these regulations on their future,” Rockefeller said in a recent letter to McCarthy. “West Virginians are eager to engage in an honest and thoughtful conversation with you about coal, its future, and our country’s energy needs. I believe that a frank and open discussion about these issues is necessary and would greatly benefit and inform all stakeholders.”

Manchin and Griffith correctly argue that the new rules now sought by Obama would prevent the construction of any new coal-fired power plants.

“Their standards require coal-fired power plants to deploy technologies that are not currently commercially viable,” Manchin recently said in the U.S. Senate. “And though the EPA has yet to formally propose new standards for existing power plants, there is every indication that these standards will be unachievable as well.”

In fact, under the proposed new EPA rules, Griffith correctly notes that even the Southwest Virginia-based Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center in Wise County — touted as one of the cleanest coal-fired power stations in the nation — could not be constructed again today under the new EPA standards.

As it stands now, McCarthy can do one of two things. She can continue to ignore the request of area lawmakers — and the plea of folks who live in the coalfields of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia who would like to have a say on the new EPA rules — or she can schedule an actual meeting, or more than one, in the coalfields of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia.