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Coal States Fight Back Against Strict EPA Power Plant Regulations

Sen. Joe Manchin

Sen. Joe Manchin
Image Source: Washington Post

Coal state politicians are pushing back against carbon dioxide limit proposals imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Representative Ed Whitfield of Kentucky are attempting to thwart the EPA’s proposed emissions limits for new power plants from taking effect. Manchin and Whitfield want the federal agency to be required to establish coal-fired power plant rules that include “commercially feasible” technologies.

As previously reported by Off The Grid News, in September the EPA announced a proposal to establish more stringent caps for new coal plants – a significant move because coal plants supply nearly 40 percent of the nation’s energy.

The environmental agency plan meant that the coal power industry would most likely be forced to utilize expensive carbon-capture technology which requires the burying of the carbon underground. Opponents of the plan have argued that the carbon technology poses serious safety risks, is still in the development process and not commercially available, and is way too expensive to be feasible. When a company’s manufacturing and operational costs increase, so do the products or services they provide to consumers.

Representative Ed Whitfield said the EPA’s proposed regulations would devastate the industry:

EPA’s extreme regulations are threatening our nation’s energy future, our economy, and countless American jobs. These regulations are being done by a group of regulators without any public discussion or debate, and the purpose of this legislation is to ensure that we have a national discussion about the use of coal.

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House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, authored legislation to combat the proposed EPA mandates. Manchin and Whitfield support Upton’s bill. The Michigan lawmaker noted in a release that the federal agency’s regulations “threaten the availability of affordable energy” sought after by American manufacturers.

“This important legislation will ensure costly regulations do not raise energy prices and threaten this renaissance, and I look forward to moving the bill though the committee and to the floor,” Upton said.

California Representative Henry Waxman, a Democrat, supports the EPA’s carbon emissions proposal and deemed Upton’s bill nothing more than “scientific lunacy.” The California politician believes allowing the status quo in the coal industry ensures the “future of our children and grandchildren” is at risk.

Meanwhile, multiple coal state lawmakers spoke at a Count on Coal: American Energy Jobs Rally at the US Capitol on Tuesday. Kentucky Republican Representative Rand Paul and GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is in a tight re-election bid, were among the keynote speakers at the event. A total of 94 percent of Kentucky’s electricity comes from coal plants, and it is the third largest coal-producing state in America. Indiana garners about 89 percent of its electricity from coal and ranks eighth in production.

Mitch McConnell and a plethora or other elected officials from coal states have long accused President Obama of initiating a “war on coal.” During the 2012 presidential election a multitude of coal miners turned up carrying signs to that effect at both Mitt Romney and Obama rallies in rural southern Ohio. Some of the best-paying non-college degree jobs in the region come from coal plants.

During the Count on Coal rally, miner Dave Green gave an impassioned speech about coal industry workers:

I’d like to clarify that I am a coal miner by choice. I’m not a miner by default because I’m from West Virginia, I have friends at home who are salesmen, engineers and doctors, but I’m a coal miner. I’m a professional, just like you are. I just get a lot dirtier. Recently, our industry has been in a bit of a pinch, and while other industries in time of need have received a helping hand from our federal government, the hand that we’ve seen has been more of a fist.

Coal has played a crucial role in creating prosperity in the United States by providing affordable energy and now the EPA is putting our people and our economy at risk by proposing regulations for coal-fired power plants that are an under-handed attempt at crushing our vital industry. To propose regulations that are too much and too fast for the industry to keep up with is nothing less than a way to take coal out of our nation’s energy options. I believe that renewable resources like wind and solar energy are excellent additions to our energy options but we all know that with existing technology, they are only able to provide a fraction of what is needed and so to propose regulations on our plants that aren’t even based on current technology is a total gamble.

How do you feel about the EPA coal plant carbon emission proposal?

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