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Local leaders react to proposed EPA carbon cuts

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The Environmental Protection Agency released its Clean Power Plan June 2, that will reduce carbon emissions from power plants, a proposal acting as the centerpiece for President Obama’s June 2013 Climate Action Plan.

(CLICK HERE FOR THE COMPLETE PROPOSAL)

The rule, which is expected to be finalized next year, proposes to cut carbon emissions from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below the 2005 levels; and cut particle pollution, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent.

"Climate change, fueled by carbon pollution, supercharges risks to our health, our economy, and our way of life. EPA is delivering on a vital piece of President Obama's Climate Action Plan by proposing a Clean Power Plan that will cut harmful carbon pollution from our largest source — power plants," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. "By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids.
"We don't have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment—our action will sharpen America’s competitive edge, spur innovation, and create jobs."

The proposal touts “flexibility,” as each state is given the opportunity to determine how it will meet the EPA’s customized goals.

“Each state's goal is tailored to its own circumstances, and states have the flexibility to reach their goal in whatever works best for them," McCarthy said.

The plan has already met opposition from West Virginia lawmakers and industry leaders, who claim that the EPA and President Obama are attacking the state’s coal industry. Just hours following the announcement, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin held a conference to address the provisions.

"The bottom line is the only way to comply with these rules will be to use less West Virginia coal," Tomblin said. "We continually hear about the flexibility given to states, and we will look into more detail at what options that we may have, but ultimately the rules will require a shift away from coal. I appreciate Administrator McCarthy’s willingness to allow us to share our recommendations, and the devastation these regulations will cause in our communities. Unfortunately, the proposal unveiled today falls far short of the balance that must exist if we are to continue to grow and prosper."

Tomblin continued to say that carbon dioxide emissions have dropped 12 percent from the 2005 levels already, while emissions in other counties have continued to rise.

"Even if these guidelines are adopted in their current form — and I stress that West Virginia will do everything in its power to keep that from happening — those reductions will be offset by other countries. Countries that will be taking American jobs as they continue to produce electricity at a lower cost," he said. "Our fight is about much more than the impact on our businesses, our coal miners and our dedicated workers who generate electricity and power our state’s economy, as significant as that can be; our opposition to these rules is about the significant impact they will have on our working families, our seniors and every person who pays an electric bill."

Bill Raney, president of the WV Coal Association, also said the plan will cause serious harm to the industry.

"The President simply has thumbed his nose at West Virginia and the best coal miners in the world," Raney said in a press conference following the announcement. "They're going to render harm throughout the coalfields of West Virginia. ... Every time we lost a coal miner's job in West Virginia, we lose a piece of West Virginia."

Mike Duncan, president and CEO of American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy, released a similar statement: “As we predicted, the administration chose political expediency over practical reality as it unveiled energy standards devoid of commonsense and flexibility. ... These guidelines represent a complete disregard for our country’s most vital fuel sources, like American coal, which provides nearly 40 percent of America’s power, reliably and affordability.”

Politicians of both parties had comments. Reps. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., along with 2014 congressional candidates Nick Casey and Alex Mooney, and West Virginia Secretary of State and U.S. Senate candidate Natalie Tennant all released statements opposing the rule.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey released a statement ahead of the announcement that promised to protect the state’s coal industry from the EPA’s “unprecedented attack.”

“Let me be clear: My office will review every line, of every paragraph, of every page of this proposal and take all legal actions necessary to protect West Virginia jobs, uphold the rule of law, and challenge this unprecedented attack on coal miners and their families," Morrisey said.

Contrarily, Emmett Pepper of Energy Efficient West Virginia spoke in favor of the proposal.

“These EPA regulations are an opportunity for West Virginia ratepayers to get the widespread energy efficiency programs that we need,” Pepper said. “We have some very inefficient homes here. Despite the fact that we have some of the lowest electric rates in the country, we pay higher electric bills than people in most other states.

"Ramping up programs to make our homes more efficient can help working families and help the power companies reduce carbon dioxide. Everyone wins with energy efficiency.”