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Capito: New EPA rules hurt W.Va. coal industry

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Editor’s note: U.S. Representative Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia testified before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Feb. 6 regarding proposed greenhouse gas rules for new coal-fired power plants. Her testimony is printed in its entirety.

 

“Mr. Chairman:

“I’m Shelley Moore Capito, and I represent West Virginia’s Second Congressional District. I’d like to start by thanking the EPA and regional administrator Shawn Garvin who helped with the water emergency in my community of Charleston, W.Va.

West Virginia is an energy state and more than 22,000 workers in my state work directly in the coal industry. Tens of thousands more West Virginians work in closely related industries. Coal provides 40 percent of our nation’s electricity, but 95 percent of the electricity used in West Virginia. It is no stretch to say that the coal industry is the lifeblood of our state’s economy.

The Environmental Protection Agency has singled out this vital industry in West Virginia. 315 coal units nationally, including 18 in West Virginia, have been retired or converted as a result of recent EPA coal regulations, including the utility MACT rule. West Virginia has more than 100 fewer coal mines operating today than it did in 2008, and thousands of miners and other workers have been furloughed or laid off. The rule under consideration today and its companion rule for existing plants expected later this year would significantly exacerbate these economic problems.

Before I discuss why these new rules are not feasible, I want to speak to the impact these rules will have on West Virginians working to provide for their families. I am here today to speak for hundreds of thousands of West Virginians whose voices have been ignored by this administration. All they ask for is a chance to do their jobs, provide affordable energy to their fellow Americans, and not be unfairly targeted by a federal government hell bent on picking winners and losers in the energy economy.

I want to express my disappointment and outrage that EPA has declined multiple invitations that I have extended to hold a public listening session on upcoming greenhouse gas rules for existing coal plants in West Virginia. Earlier this year, the agency held 11 such sessions around the country in places like New York, Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco, and here in Washington D.C.

Notably absent from EPA’s list were the states that rely on coal the most for affordable, reliable electricity. None of EPA’s listening sessions were held in any one of 10 states that generate the highest percentage of their electricity from coal. You have ignored the very people whose livelihoods would be place at risk by your policies. West Virginians deserve to be heard and to be considered in the rule-making process.

Now, let’s talk about why these rules should not be implemented. The greenhouse gas standard for new coal plants we are considering today cannot be met by any plant in our existing fleet. Under this rule, new plants will have to meet a carbon dioxide emissions limit of 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour. The Longview Power Plant in my state of West Virginia is one of the cleanest ultra super critical coal plants in the country, but it still exceeds this standard by a wide margin.

In its proposed rule, EPA cites demonstration projects like the Kemper plant in Mississippi and the FutureGen project in Illinois as evidence that there is commercially available carbon capture and storage technology that would allow coal plants to meet today’s standard. These plants, however, have each received tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies at both the federal and state levels in order to help spur the development of CCS technology. And while I fully support this research, we cannot rely on taxpayer funding to bring this technology to every power plant in America – it’s simply not feasible. If the administration were truly interested in developing this technology, it would have worked with Congress to fund innovative research to make clean coal technologies more technically and commercially viable. I’ve been advocating for funding for the Department of Energy’s Fossil Energy Research program. This funding supports the next generation of clean coal technologies through research conducted at the National Energy Technology Lab in Morgantown, West Virginia, and at universities around the country, including West Virginia University. Instead, the administration sought to cut funding for fossil energy research at the same time it proposed regulatory standards that are unachievable with existing technologies.

Let me clarify one thing: My opposition to the greenhouse gas rules under consideration today should not be taken as opposition to all environmental regulation. On Jan. 9, a chemical spill at Freedom Industries in West Virginia left 300,000 people in my state without water. West Virginians understand that there is an important role for commonsense environmental regulation that protects the air that we breathe and the water that we drink.

The rule under consideration today is not such a commonsense regulation. Instead, this rule would choke off a vital American industry by preventing new coal plants and bringing the coal production that would support those plants to a halt.

There are clearly better ways to regulate. I have introduced legislation that would block these greenhouse gas regulations from being implemented until foreign nations comprising 80 percent of non-U.S. carbon dioxide emissions promulgate regulations that are at least as stringent as ours. My bill would mitigate the harm to our nation’s economy by regulating in tandem with our global competitors. Germany last year built more coal-fired power plants than at any time during the last two decades. Japan is turning to coal and natural gas. India and China are building new coal plants at an astonishing rate. These are our foreign competitors. Many of these countries import our coal. West Virginia exports more coal than any other state. While I am glad that coal exports can help provide jobs here at home, it is breathtaking that this administration would turn its West Virginians know that an energy economy is a jobs economy. That doesn’t mean that we don’t want any regulation. It does mean that we want regulators to work with us to protect our air and water without telling us that we can’t have our coal industry jobs.

I call on the agency to stop this rule-making and come to West Virginia. I urge you to listen to people in our coal communities and let American workers be part of a process that balances our economy with the environment.”

 

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