West Virginia State Government speaks out about the Clean Power Plan

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, Senate President Bill Cole, and Speaker of the House Tim Armstead,  are standing together and continuing to defend West Virginia’s coal industry after President Obama announced the final version of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

The plan uses state-specific targets to reduce emissions by 32 percent by 2030 from levels recorded in 2005. It mandates that states begin complying with the new regulations by 2022.

“The release of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan today is sadly something that we have anticipated for years,” Cole said. “That’s why we took bold, decisive steps in passing House Bill 2004, which provides an additional layer of protection against the relentless attacks on West Virginia’s coal fields. The Legislature absolutely will not approve any State Implementation Plan that will cause more harm, and bring more job losses, to our state’s coal industry.”

House Bill 2004, was signed into law by Governor Tomblin in March. The bill requires the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to submit a report to the Legislature within 180 days of the final rule regarding the feasibility of complying with the new standards, and provides that any State Implementation Plan submitted to EPA must be approved by the Legislature.

Speaker Armstead said he agreed with President Cole.

“The Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan is another blow to hard working West Virginians who rely on coal-fired power plants for their jobs and livelihood,” Armstead said. “President Obama, when he was running for President, pledged that if companies continued to rely on coal-fired energy it would bankrupt them. This plan is the latest step in the Obama administration’s pledge to bankrupt the coal industry. Sadly, on the very day that the Obama administration released another round of over-reaching regulations that will further harm our vital coal industry, one of West Virginia’s leading coal producers announced that it had filed for bankruptcy protection.”

Alpha Natural Resources filed bankruptcy on Monday.

Governor Tomblin said the announcement was heartbreaking for miners, their families and the communities in which they live. More so, the bankruptcy filing affects more than just those directly employed by Alpha – it affects suppliers, support services and retailers whose businesses are dependent on these companies and their employees.

“We recognize market forces play a role in these decisions; however, today’s announcement by Alpha also demonstrates the negative impacts the EPA’s irresponsible mandates continue to have on our state,” Tomblin said. “For years, we have tried to warn the EPA of the devastating consequences of these regulations, and this is another example of the real-life impacts those decisions can have.”

Tomblin continued to say that West Virginia’s coal industry should not be counted out just yet.

“I spoke with Alpha CEO Kevin Crutchfield this morning and am pleased that operations will continue while the company restructures and agree with him that our coal industry should not be thought of in the past tense,” Tomblin. “I will continue to work with the industry to maintain mining operations while we also find ways to diversify southern West Virginia’s economy.”

The question at hand for State Government after the recent events, is to submit or to fight according to Armstead.

“Under the EPA’s new plan, West Virginia, along with other energy producing states, is directed to develop a plan that will impose self-inflicted damage on our state’s struggling economy,” Armstead said. “All leaders of our state will need to carefully consider whether West Virginia should submit a State Implementation Plan as required by the Clean Power Plan or instead take other steps to fight this latest round of federal overreach.”

The goal of The Clean Power Plan is to provide national consistency, accountability and a level playing field while reflecting each state’s energy mix.

Britanie Morgan can be contacted at [email protected]