Several West Virginia lawmakers gathered May 18 to support the Affordable Reliable Energy Now Act, which aims to roll back proposed federal regulations on coal-fired power plants.
Senate President Bill Cole, R-Mercer and Speaker of the House Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, among several other lawmakers, came together at the Capitol to support the legislation. Chris Hamilton, senior vice president of the West Virginia Coal Association, also spoke in favor of the bill.
U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., introduced The Affordable Reliable Energy Now Act (ARENA) May 13.
Cole led the conference, stating his and other lawmakers’ support for Capito and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who also co-sponsored the bill.
“Nobody is against clean air, but the extent that President Obama and his EPA want to go will cause devastating harm to our coal industry and thousands of West Virginia families,” Cole said. “The proposed emissions reductions standards for power plants are unprecedented, complicated and expensive.
“Today we reaffirm our commitment to defend our coal industry and our state’s electricity consumers,” he added. “We stand ready to assist you both at the state level.”
ARENA seeks to roll back the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants. The Act would provide a way for a state’s governor to opt out of a state or federal plan that could negatively impact economic growth or electricity ratepayers, and supporters say it would prevent the EPA from withholding federal highway funds from states who do not comply with the Clean Power Plan.
In addition to speaking in support of the proposed legislation, Armstead also addressed the effect the declining coal industry has had on Appalachia.
“Sadly, it’s become almost a monthly occurrence the coal mines are shutting down in our state, we’re seeing WARN notices being issued to our employees and hardworking West Virginians in our coal industry are finding themselves unemployed,” he said.
“Rather than working with us to reverse this alarming, devastating trend in West Virginia, the Obama Administration is at it once again,” he added. “They’re imposing unreasonable and oppressive regulations that say to our hardworking West Virginians that the White House doesn’t care if it puts our West Virginians out of work, it doesn’t care if we become more reliant on foreign energy.
“In fact, this White House has said once again, loudly and clearly, that it doesn’t care about West Virginia.”
Similarly, Hamilton said the state has about 50 percent fewer mines now than it did 18 months ago.
“As we are asked to ratchet down our economy, as we are asked to ratchet down the number of operating mines and miners in this state, world growth of coal is on the rise,” Hamilton added.
Cole went on to prompt Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and the state’s additional Congressional representatives to support the proposal.
“Promote this legislation and promote the most abundant, most inexpensive and most reliable source of energy our country has: coal,” Cole said. “Our economic future depends on coal and the freedom it brings.
“There’s absolutely no doubt that our state has been built on coal. There’s also no doubt that West Virginia’s coal built America,” he said. “Our coal miners are proud of their jobs, they’re proud of their heritages and they’re proud of their communities. We must help them find a brighter future.
“We have such a vibrant, strong history in our coal mining history; and I, for one, don’t believe the story is over,” he added. “West Virginia’s history and West Virginia’s fate should not be, and cannot be, decided by an executive order or by a group of non-elected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.”
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- On May 18, 2015