Coal-state leaders rally against EPA’s CO2 plan

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett on July 30 rallied in Pittsburgh on behalf of working families in Pennsylvania’s energy sector, and was joined at that rally by West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Ohio Lieutenant Gov. Mary Taylor.

Those are three major coal-burning states that would stand to lose coal-mining and coal-power plant jobs due to the Obama Administration proposal for CO2 reductions from existing power plants. Corbett and Taylor are Republicans, while Tomblin is a Democrat, so in coal states this issue does not split much across party lines.

Corbett criticized the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) recent proposed rule for power plant emissions reduction, which he said could result in significant job loss in Pennsylvania.

“In Pennsylvania, nearly 63,000 men and women work in jobs supported by the coal industry,” Corbett said. “Anything that seeks to or has the effect of shutting down coal-fired power plants is an assault on Pennsylvania jobs, consumers, and those citizens who rely upon affordable, abundant domestic energy.”

Pennsylvania’s coal industry is a vital contributor to the state’s economy, with direct, indirect and induced impacts responsible for approximately $4.1bn in economic output; $2.1bn directly by the coal industry. Of the nearly 63,000 jobs attributed to Pennsylvania’s coal industry, more than 8,100 are miners.

Pennsylvania is home to a number of mines, including huge longwall-equipped operations of CONSOL Energy (NYSE: CNX) and Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR).

Coal is used to generate more electricity than any other resource in Pennsylvania and is responsible for approximately 44% of the state’s electricity generation. In 2011, Pennsylvania generated 227 million megawatts of electricity, making it the second largest producer of electricity in the U.S. and the largest net exporter of electricity among the states.

“Reducing greenhouse emissions is a goal we support,” Corbett said. “However, some officials refuse to acknowledge that coal is now cleaner, and they don’t recognize the advancement this American industry has made, particularly in Pennsylvania. In recent years, Pennsylvania has made great strides to reduce emissions, and I am confident in saying that our commitment to Pennsylvania’s coal industry does not mean we have to sacrifice clean air.”

In April, in anticipation of EPA’s proposed rule, Pennsylvania submitted a plan that would achieve lower emissions from existing power plants, which would lead to cleaner air, by removing obstacles and encouraging efficiency projects. At the heart of Pennsylvania’s plan is efficiency and the preservation of states’ authority and discretion in the development and implementation of emissions control programs.

“No one disagrees that protecting our environment is crucial, and that we need to do our fair share,” Corbett said. “In Pennsylvania, that is exactly what we are doing. We have proposed a plan to EPA that would realize lower emissions and cleaner air through increased efficiency, without endangering jobs or our stable and diverse energy supply.”

On July 31, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will be testifying on EPA’s proposed rule, offering Pennsylvania’s plan for how cleaner air, lower energy prices and more jobs can be achieved through a responsible plan for emissions reduction that recognizes Pennsylvania’s diverse energy resources.

Tomblin noted in his speech that about 60 GW of coal-fired generation in the U.S. is already due to shut due to EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, and that the CO2 rule will only make that shutdown situation worse. He said EPA’s goal of a 600% increase in renewable energy generation in West Virginia is “simply unattainable.”

Said Tomblin: “If these rules are put into place, there is no question – none – electricity rates will skyrocket. It means our manufacturers may again be forced to look overseas for reasonable electric rates – taking with them good paying jobs to countries that do not allow bureaucratic agencies to mandate unilateral restrictions on power production. These rate increases would become an unfair unreasonable financial burden on hardworking people by taking money out of their pockets and causing damaging consequences to our state and national economies.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.