ASHLAND — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway joined officials from 10 other states, including Ohio, in asking for an expedited federal appellate court ruling on tougher proposed federal Environmental Protection Agency performance standards for existing power plants.
Kentucky and West Virginia, two states heavily involved in the coal industry, could see the harshest economic blows from tougher EPA guidelines requiring a 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants, said Bill Bissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association. It also will mean a continuing loss of coal mining jobs, he said.
“Anyone who doesn’t think there’s a war on coal hasn’t been to the coalfields,” said Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association.
Conway, a Democrat, and Morrisey, a Republican, are seeking an injunction from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on the proposed guidelines.
They stopped by Ashland on Wednesday afternoon to talk about their reasons for challenging the proposed EPA guidelines.
“Our people can’t afford to wait two or three years” for a ruling, Morrisey said. “West Virginia has experienced horrific harm. We have to stem the tide of job loss.”
Morrisey hopes to get a ruling on the request for injunctive relief in six to nine months.
“Ninety percent of our electricity comes from coal-fired power plants,” Conway said. “These proposed rules will put more miners out of work. We had 14,000 coal miners several years ago. It was down to 7,300 last year. In some areas there are 20 percent unemployment rates. Those aren’t just numbers. Those are real people.”
“We have to fight back when a federal agency overreaches,” he said. “We have to challenge it. We need injunctive relief now. This issue is about people, not politics.”
Morrisey called the challenge to EPA rules “a bipartisan effort. It’s terrific to work across the aisle. This is a common fight to protect people. This is a terrific show of unity. We have to stand up against EPA overreach. I’m concerned that electricity rates are going to skyrocket. I believe the proposed rule is illegal. I don’t think this proposal will survive judicial scrutiny.”
However, officials in 10 or more northeastern states will support the EPA in the legal issue.
The EPA challenge came too late to lead to the loss of an undetermined number of jobs at Kentucky Power Co.’s Big Sandy power plant near Louisa, Kentucky, which earlier this year announced plans to convert its largest generating unit from coal to natural gas.
“I opposed that,” Conway said. “It will result in a big rate increase. Our citizens can’t afford this.”
Conway called the federal proposal onerous. “I’m not certain it’s legal,” he said. “This is being crammed down our throats.”
“We all like clean air,” Conway said. “I believe we have to combat global warming. But in this instance, I believe the EPA overreached.”
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- On September 3, 2014