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Coal lobbyists call EPA’s Clean Power Plan “irrational and illegal”

World Coal,

The West Virginia Coal Association (WCVA) joined Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and representatives of Appalachian Power and First Energy to submit comments on the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan.

The proposed guidelines for carbon pollution emissions from existing power plants were widely condemned by coal industry bodies, with the WCVA President, Bill Raney, joining Tomblin and Appalachian Power President and COO, Charles Patton, in condemning the new regulation.

"This poorly devised, and we believe, illegal, power grab by the Obama EPA will hurt West Virginians by minimising the use of West Virginia coal and force the closure of more coal-fired power plants across the country," Raney said.  "It will further reduce the number of West Virginians working in the coal and power generation industries, taking paychecks out of our communities and further jeopardising our state's economic prosperity. [The] EPA is literally attempting to take control of the nation's electricity grid and the state's sovereign authority with these proposed rules".

"We certainly need our congressional representatives - Senator Manchin, Senator-elect Capito, Congressman McKinley, Congressmen-elect Mooney and Jenkins – to push the new Congress to do whatever they can to stop this job-killing, economy-smashing plan in its tracks. It makes no sense that [the] EPA is inflicting the pain of taking our great coal miners' jobs for a CO2 reduction of less than 1% and this attempt to wrestle regulatory control away from the states will result in higher electric bills for most Americans," Raney said.

A recent study by Energy Ventures Analysis found that under these proposed rules, the annual West Virginia household electricity and gas bills could increase by US$750 – a 38% increase – by 2020.

"President Obama is mandating a move away from low cost, coal-fired electricity to more expensive alternatives for an initiative that will have little to no impact on global climate change," Raney said.  "When you take into account that more than 400 electric generating units across the country are slated for closure or transition to alternative fuels in the coming years, these rules also severely threaten the stability of America's power grid."

Raney offered that 58 coal-fired electric generating units across the country that currently use West Virginia coal will be shuttered by 2020. This represents the livelihood of thousands of state residents.

Over the past several months, more than 12,000 individuals have signed a West Virginia Coal Association petition in opposition to the EPA's "Clean Power Plan". All those signed petitions were mailed to EPA on Monday.

Supporters of the EPA claim the Clean Power Plan is necessary in order to begin the transition to a low-carbon future: and thereby avoid some of the most dangerous effects of climate change.

Coal mining giant, Peabody Energy, is among those coal industry supporters to claim the Clean Power Plan violates the Takings Clause of the Constitution. However, as David Doniger of Business Spectator notes: “This is a breathtaking argument. If it had any force, it would have been impossible for the government to take toxic lead out of gasoline or paint, to ban cancer-causing asbestos insulation, to eliminate ozone-destroying CFCs, and on and on, without each time paying the polluters.”

The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the Constitution does not require taxpayers to pay corporate polluters to stop polluting. Rather, it is a proper role of federal, state, and local governments to limit industrial activities that endanger public health and welfare, without compensating the companies that create the risks.

 In 1992, Justice Scalia wrote that “the owner of a lake-bed … would not be entitled to compensation when he is denied the requisite permit to engage in a landfilling operation that would have the effect of flooding others’ land,” and that the “the corporate owner of a nuclear generating plant” would not be entitled to compensation “when it is directed to remove all improvements from its land upon discovery that the plant sits astride an earthquake fault.” The same principle, endorsed in countless other Supreme Court cases, applies when the corporate owner of a coal power plant is directed to stop emitting a dangerous pollutant like carbon dioxide.

Yet with the latest submittal of comments by coal industry players to the EPA, the battle lines have once again been drawn in the ongoing ‘War on Coal’. 

Edited from various sources by Sam Dodson

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