Friday, September 20, 2013

Did the EPA just kill new coal plants – and is the other shoe about to drop?

Mark Obenshain

You've got to hand it to federal bureaucrats: they know how to spin bad news of their own making. "We're providing at least some certainty here that [coal plants] have an opportunity to be around in a carbon-constrained world," said an EPA official of the administration's latest salvo in the war on coal, new rules that even the New York Times concedes will "effectively doom construction of new coal plants far into the future."

The proposed Obama administration regulations on the coal industry have a clear and intended effect: to make it impossible to build new coal-fired power plants in Virginia or anywhere else in the country. These outrageous policies are proof positive that this Administration is set on waging an all-out assault on the coal industry and the 45,000 Virginians whose jobs depend on it.

And the impact doesn't end there. Virginians on a fixed income shouldn't have to worry about how they can afford to keep the lights on because bureaucrats in Washington want to rapidly take coal out of our energy mix. And policies that harm Virginia's coal industry also hurt manufacturing, rail, ports—even the data centers that rely on abundant and affordable energy.

You may wonder how Congress could have approved such a disastrous decision. It didn't. Yet again, the Obama administration has made an end-run on Congress. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA can only mandate the adoption of "demonstrated technologies," yet experts agree that the only possible way that new coal plants could meet the new requirements—ones that no coal plant has ever achieved—is through carbon capture and storage technologies that are still many years away from commercial feasibility. That strains the definition of "adequately demonstrated" (the legal requirement, remember!) beyond belief.

It gets worse, because this is only the beginning. Next year, the EPA pans to come back and adopt new regulations for existing power plants. These regulations are a clear signal that the goal of this administration is not simply to prevent new coal fired power plants but to force the closure of existing coal power plants. (And don't think this administration sees natural gas as the answer; the Obama administration's choice to head up the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has called natural gas a "dead end.") We have to draw a line in the sand and say that we'll stand up against overreaching federal regulations that kill jobs and economic opportunity in Virginia.

Virginians deserve an Attorney General who will stand up for coal jobs in Virginia, and I will be that Attorney General. And not just for them, but for ratepayers, dockworkers, entrepreneurs, and everyone else affected by these misguided EPA regulations. That's part of what it means to stand up for all Virginians.

So where's my opponent in all of this? Senator Herring's only comment thus far has been to attack me for expressing concern about where these regulations were headed.

Democrats in other coal states aren't nearly as tongue-tied. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) said that the EPA's agenda "beat[s] the living daylights" out of his state, while Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) stated that he is "dead-set against the EPA and their scheme to issue emissions standards that would make it impossible for new coal-fired power plants to be constructed," and Secretary of State Alison Grimes (D-KY) declaring that she "will not stand idle as overreaching regulation adversely impacts jobs and middle-class families."

They're absolutely right. I hope Senator Herring is taking notes.

As Attorney General, I'm going to stand up for coal jobs, and for all Virginians, in opposing these overreaching federal regulations that kill jobs and economic opportunity in Virginia. And I'll support and strongly defend the Coalfield Employment Enhancement Credit, because I know how important it is to the economy of Southwest Virginia. Make no mistake: Virginia is in the crosshairs of Washington's "war on coal." And if I'm elected, I won't take it lying down – because I know that there will always be another shoe poised to drop.