Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 11, 2014

Fighting for coal: House offensive welcomed

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— Members of the U.S. House of Representatives are to be applauded for their passage last week of the Electricity Security and Affordability Act of 2014. The measure, approved on a 229-183 vote, correctly seeks to undo proposed new EPA rules that would halt the construction of new coal-fueled power plants.

The passage of the H.R. 3826 was one of two important developments last week in Washington as it relates to the fight against controversial anti-coal regulatory measures sought by the Obama administration. U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., who was an original cosponsor of the Electricity Security and Affordability Act, says the measure seeks to block what he calls “the mother of all anti-coal regulatory measures” advanced by the EPA.

“Those of us from the coal-producing regions of this country have become sick and tired of this EPA churning out anti-coal regulations, while showing little or no appreciation for how those regulations will affect the lives and livelihoods of the real people who have to live and work under them,” Rahall said last week. “We have been frustrated as the EPA has used slanted science, and inflated claims about the benefits of their regulatory agenda.  We have to question whether this EPA is actually using good, sound science, or if it is picking and choosing science that sounds good to meet whatever ends the agency desires.”

 The proposed new EPA rules would require new coal-fired power plants to install carbon capture and storage technologies that are not yet commercially available anywhere in the world. As a result, the new rules would effectively prevent the construction of any new coal-fired generation plants in the U.S. That, in return, would lead to decreased energy reliability and increased costs for American families, as correctly argued by Rahall.

The measure faces an uncertain future in the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate, which has killed such common-sense, coal-protection measures in the past. However, it is an election year, and there is always hope that lawmakers facing a tough re-election battle may be having second thoughts about these job-killing EPA policies. And we point to last week’s coal technology symposium in Washington that included participation from several lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., as evidence of a potential thawing of the anti-coal mindset we have seen in the U.S. Senate in recent months.

The coal technology symposium was hosted by West Virginia University and the University of North Dakota. It’s stated goal was to find common sense, viable paths forward for coal as a part of the nation’s energy mix.

Manchin says the Department of Energy’s own Energy Information Administration predicts that coal will continue to provide about a third of our nation’s power for the next three decades. That’s why the Obama administration should be working to promote coal — and clean-coal technology — that is vital to our future.

Manchin, Warner, Heitkamp and Donnelly correctly argued last week in support of clean-coal technology projects. That’s important. Because it will take both Democrats and Republicans working together to advance such common-sense measures as the Electricity Security and Affordability Act. Manchin is urging his colleagues in the U.S. Senate to follow suit by passing this bill quickly. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says he is doubtful that Manchin’s bill will get a vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate. And President Barack Obama has promised to veto the measure if it clears both the House and Senate.

But what a powerful message the U.S. Senate could send to Obama with the passage of this all-important measure during a midterm election year. We will be watching to see how senators serving our region vote on the Electricity Security and Affordability Act.

The alternative, killing  thousands of good paying jobs and putting our nations’ energy dependence at risk, is certainly not the correct path forward.