Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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May 25, 2014

New emission rules: Opposition growing ahead of roll out

— — Lawmakers serving the region are taking renewed and necessary steps to promote clean coal technology. At the same they are correctly voicing opposition to the new and unprecedented emission rules the Obama administration is expected to roll out early next month that will directly impact coal-fired power plants.

In addition to killing good-paying jobs and harming the economies of coal-producing states, the new EPA rules — due out possibly as early as June 2 — also are expected to cause electric bills to rise by 4 percent, according to estimates from the Energy Department.

Now President Barack Obama is facing renewed challenges from key members of his own political party when it comes to the new EPA rules. Just last week, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., joined U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark. and U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., forwarded a letter to Obama expressing “deep concerns” with the proposed EPA New Source Performance Standards for carbon dioxide emissions from new affected fossil fuel-fired electric utility generating units. The seven senators are urging the administration to evaluate more appropriate ways to regulate emissions in order to “truly support the development of clean-coal technology.”

Another 46 senators, including Manchin, Warner and U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., are asking EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to implement a 120-day public comment period for its proposed regulation of greenhouse gases from existing coal-fired power plants. The 46 senators correctly argue that utilities, rural electric cooperatives, employees and consumers need sufficient time to analyze the rule and its potential impacts on reliability, electricity providers, jobs, and the economy.

Kaine, a key Democrat serving our region, has also signed on as a co-sponsor of a welcomed measure supporting federal advances in clean-coal technologies. The legislation introduced by Heitkamp and co-sponsored by Kaine seeks to stimulate large-scale federal and private sector investment in advanced clean-coal technologies. The Kaine backed-measure comes only days after a similar clean-coal technology bill was introduced by U.S. Sen. Jay Rockeller, D-W.Va.

When he was governor of Virginia, Kaine supported the permitting of the Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center — a state-of-the-art coal plant in Southwest Virginia that is designed to accommodate eventual carbon capture and storage technology. But the plant located in Wise County could be the last of its kind to be constructed in America under the new federal emission limits. That puts Kaine — who believes climate change is occurring as a result of carbon pollution — in the unique position of supporting a balanced approach to addressing the nation’s energy needs.

The legislation backed by Kaine includes the expansion of federal research and development at the U.S. Department of Energy and federal support for private investment in carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects. The legislation also establishes a presidentially-appointed advisory committee to report to Congress with recommendations on how best to support future CCS projects in the United States. It also calls for the development of large-scale carbon storage programs to support the commercial-scale application of enhanced oil recovery and geologic storage of carbon dioxide and directs that 25 percent, or approximately $2 billion, of the current U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Loan Guarantee Program funding for fossil energy go to coal projects.

The Kaine backed measure also increases the current tax credit for carbon sequestration from coal facilities to 30 percent and creates clean energy coal bonds to provide tax credits for coal-powered facilities that sequester CO2 or meet efficiency targets relative to the current coal fleet.

 The clean-coal technology measures introduced by Rockefeller, and now Kaine, merit immediate consideration by Congress. It is simply unrealistic to think that our great nation can immediately stop burning coal and shift to cleaner energy sources overnight — or even in a matter of a few years. That’s why renewed federal investments in clean-coal technology must be prioritized.

And until the happens — the new EPA rules should be delayed.

 

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