April 03, 2012

Manchin: Partisan politics, overreaching EPA prevent a sensible energy policy | The State Journal

Sen. Joe Manchin visited West Virginia's largest power plant April 3 to criticize the highly political atmosphere in Washington, D.C., and what he described as the regulatory overreach of the Environmental Protection Agency.

"Even energy has become a partisan issue," Manchin said in what he described as a major speech on energy. "Energy is a common-sense issue, and it doesn't belong to one political party."

Manchin gave his speech at the John Amos power plant in Putnam County. Amos burns coal, and it is the largest plant on the American Electric Power system.

Manchin said much is wrong with how the federal government has handled energy in recent years. First, the proposed cap-and-trade law that was voted down would not have produced the results its proponents promised, he said.

"It was a money exchange. It didn't do anything except raise the price of energy throughout the country," he said.

Then, the EPA vetoed a mine permit that had been granted. A law prevents the Defense Department from using aviation fuel made from coal, he said.

And while Manchin would not mention Obama by name, he criticized the president's decision to prevent construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Manchin asked why the United States should buy oil from unfriendly countries in the Middle East and not take every advantage offered by its friendly neighbor to the north.

"I think we will build it," he said.

And there are pending EPA rules known as MACT and CSAPR that could cause residential electric bills to rise by 30 to 35 percent, he said.

Meanwhile, solar energy company Solyndra got $500 million in federal aid and went bankrupt, but the Department of Energy would not provide $300 million to AEP to help develop commercial-scale carbon capture and storage technology at the Mountaineer power plant in Mason County, Manchin said.

In taking questions from the audience after his speech, Manchin said the United States could reduce its dependence on foreign oil by 25 percent in five years if Congress required federal, state and local governments to convert the larger vehicles in their fleets, such as school buses, mass transit buses, garbage trucks and highways trucks, to natural gas.

Manchin's sharpest comments came after his speech, when he criticized the EPA and other federal agencies as having too much power and going too far in regulating the economy and the environment.

At the state level in West Virginia, the Legislature enacts laws requiring agencies such as the Department of Environmental Protection to issue regulations. The agencies' rules are subject to review and approval by the Legislature, Manchin said. In the case of federal agencies such as EPA, there is no such oversight by Congress, he said.

"You should not be able to regulate what's not been legislated," Manchin said, adding "They're unbridled right now. They've gone too far."

By:  Jim Ross