Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

June 12, 2008

Boucher introduces key bill in push for clean coal energy

By Bill Archer

BLUEFIELD — U.S. Rep. Frederick C. “Rick” Boucher, D-Va., introduced legislation in congress today with broad-based bipartisan support that will pump $1 billion into technology aimed at developing viable carbon capture and storage to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by capturing and injecting underground, the carbon dioxide emitted from electricity generation plants that use fossil fuels.

“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 was quoted as stating in a press release. Boucher is chairman of the House Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee. “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 was quoted as stating.

The list of congressmen who joined Boucher in sponsoring the legislation is formidable and includes U.S. Reps. Fred Upton, R-Mich., John Murtha D-Pa., Joe Barton, R-Texas, Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., Jerry Costello, D-Ill., John Shimkus, R-Ill., Jim Matheson, D-Utah, Mike Doyle, D-Pa., Tim Holdren, D-Pa., Brad Ellsworth, D-Ind., Baron Hill, D-Ind., Charlie Wilson, D-Ohio and Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio.

“Energy prices drive our economy,” Rahall, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources was quoted in the press release as stating. “As the price of gasoline has skyrocketed due in part to policies that limit access to American energy resources, it is critical that electricity rates do not follow suit.”

Rahall said that clean coal technology answers part of the nation’s future energy needs. “In our quest to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the environment, we must promote exciting new clean coal technologies that will not only keep costs down for consumers, but also foster new jobs and a strong economy.”

Reaction to reports of the legislation in the West Virginia and Virginia coalfields was solid in support of the efforts. “It’s absolutely critical for the future of this nation for the technology (of carbon capture and storage) to mature and develop,” Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association said. “The federal government has to take a leadership role in this process. If congress decides to enact (more rigid emissions requirements), they have to take some responsibility in developing new technologies.”

Raney said that that coal produces more than half of the energy consumed in the U.S., and that despite the desire to develop alternate energy sources, coal remains the most important aspect of the nation’s domestic energy production.

Barbara Altizer, executive director of the Eastern Coal Council said that she hopes to review the bill in greater detail, but she was impressed by what the co-sponsors said about coal and the need to concentrate on domestic energy sources.

“I was thrilled with some of the statements these political leaders made,” Altizer said. “We have enough coal to last hundreds of years. I think this bill will help efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions in the years to come.”

Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America expressed his support for the legislation in the press release from Boucher’s office, and the leadership of several domestic energy producing companies including Michael G. Morris, president and chief executive officer of American Electric Power, Kraig Naaz, National Mining Association president and chief executive officer, Jim Rogers, Duke Energy chief executive officer, Thomas F. Farrell II, chairman of Dominion, David Ratcliffe, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Southern Company, Bill Johnson, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Progress Energy and Dick Silverman, chief executive officer of Salt River Project joined in supporting the legislature.

– Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com