Some Virginia legislators publicly announced their opposition to proposed EPA regulations that would limit carbon emissions at newly-built coal-fired power plants. At a press conference held yesterday, a group of Virginia legislators released a letter signed by 85 members of the Virginia General Assembly to President Barack Obama that expressed their opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed regulations, known as New Source Performance Standards (NSPS).
The letter was sent to the president as part of the EPA’s public comment period for the proposed NSPS regulations. The EPA’s public comment period is open until March 10. Comments can be submitted to the EPA through the Count on Coal website (www.countoncoal.org/ comment <http:// www.countoncoal.org/comment> ) or through the EPA’s website.
“With this letter, we are sending a strong message to President Obama and the EPA: these regulations are reckless and irresponsible, and they will hurt our economy,” said First District Delegate Terry Kilgore. “They will cost us jobs, and they will dangerously jeopardize our nation’s energy supply.
“These regulations are a threat to America’s most abundant energy resource, and they are a threat to Virginia’s economy, especially for the coal mining regions of Southwest Virginia that we represent.” Last September, the EPA proposed the rule that would cap carbon emissions on new power plants and make construction of the kind of coal-powered plants currently in operation across much of the US illegal.
According to Joanna M. Foster of Think Progress, the regulation mandates that all future coal plants can emit just 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour. An average US coal plant currently dumps over 1,700 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for every megawatt-hour of energy it produces. The rule also covers new natural- gas fired plants. Natural gas plants, 100 megawatts or larger, will be limited to 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatthour, while smaller plants could emit no more than 1,100 pounds.
“We think it is important that President Obama understands how important the coal industry is to Virginia’s economy and how harmful these proposed regulations will be for Virginia if they are put in place,” said Senator Phil Puckett. “More than 45,000 Virginians work in the coal industry, and their livelihood is at stake. They deserve to have their voices heard.”
Legislators were joined at the press conference by Virginia Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Barry DuVal, Virginia Coal & Energy Alliance (VCEA) Chairman Robert Litton and several members of the VCEA Board of Directors and staff.
“Affordable, reliable electricity is a key ingredient to creating a business climate that attracts manufacturers and other major employers to Virginia,” explained DuVal. “Taking coal out of our energy mix will increase the cost of doing business in Virginia and will make it much harder for us to attract and keep employers in our state.
“When our current fleet of coal plants comes offline in the coming years, if we can’t build new coal plants we are going to have a very difficult time filling that huge gap in our electricity supply,” he concluded.
In 2006, there were 5,262 employed in coal mining in Virginia. That number includes 3,623 underground jobs and 1,639 in surface. These statistics were provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Coal is the backbone of Southwest Virginia’s economy, and we’re fighting to stop these EPA regulations because they are a threat to the survival of our industry and our region,” said Robert Litton. “These regulations not only threaten the jobs of thousands of hardworking people in Southwest Virginia, they also threaten the survival of local governments across our region.
“Our coal-producing counties depend on coal taxes for as much as 25 percent of their annual budgets – money we use to fund our public schools, roads and other vital public infrastructure. Our region simply can’t survive without a thriving coal industry,” Litton concluded.
Foster noted in the “Think Progress” article that modern combinedcycle natural gas plants are essentially already able to meet this standard. The rule, will however, make it very difficult for new coal-fired power plants to be built in the United States. Utilities will only be able to build new coal plants if they are able to capture 20 to 40 percent of the carbon they emit and store it underground. This technology is known as carbon capture and storage (CCS).
Many coal advocates in Congress and fossil-fuel industry leaders have argued that the standard is designed to nix new coal plant construction, claiming that the CCS technology needed to meet the standard simply isn’t ready for commercial deployment.