April 03, 2012

Manchin says he'll fight new EPA rules | Charleston Gazette

WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Tuesday he will vigorously oppose new greenhouse-gas rules proposed last week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

During a speech at the John Amos Power Plant near Winfield, Manchin stressed the importance of national energy independence and the impact coal, gas and other energy resources have on creating good-paying jobs.

Today, Manchin said, coal generates 45 percent of all energy used in the United States and "is projected to produce the lion's share of energy decades into the future."

Between 2006 and 2011, Manchin said Tuesday, AEP had as many as 3,200 construction workers at its John Amos plant, now one of the world's cleanest coal plants.

Those workers installed more than $1 billion worth of scrubbers and other equipment to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 90 percent, he said.

"Between 2006 and 2011, at AEP power plants in West Virginia, you created 27.7 million work hours on environmental construction projects," Manchin told his audience.

"This plant is an example that when government works as a partner, not an adversary, we can put thousands of people back to work, and find the balance between the economy and environment."

Last week, EPA officials proposed what the agency called a "common-sense" requirement that any new coal-fired power plants include equipment to control their greenhouse-gas emissions.

"Right now there are no limits to the amount of carbon pollution that future power plants will be able to put into our skies -- and the health and economic threats of a changing climate continue to grow," EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said at the time. "We're putting in place a standard that relies on the use of clean, American-made technology to tackle a challenge that we can't leave to our kids and grandkids."

Most scientists and scientific organizations around the world say global temperatures are increasing, that human activities -- primarily burning fossil fuels -- are to blame, and that reductions in greenhouse emissions are urgently needed to avoid dangerous impacts.

Manchin did not mention climate change or global warming at Tuesday's event. He did stress the wide variety of energy resources in West Virginia, including natural gas, wind, biomass and solar energy.

"From the moment I arrived in the U.S. Senate, I have believed and fought for the balance between the economy, environment and jobs," he said.

Manchin fears some coal-fired power plants that have not installed state-of-the-art technology could be forced to close.

"The EPA is creating unreasonable timelines that will force AEP and other utilities to shut down far too many power plants that are needed in the system," he said.

By April 2015, AEP alone will have to retrofit more than 25 percent of its capacity to continue generating electricity.

AEP alone could be forced to layoff 750 employees from plants in West Virginia and other states, Manchin said. AEP had already planned to close some of its older and less-efficient coal-fired plants.

Still, Manchin said, "coal will play a major role in our country's energy portfolio for decades to come. By its own estimates, [the Obama] administration says that coal will make up 39 percent of our energy generation in 2035."

Manchin criticized $2.7 billion in federal expenditures on renewable energy, which he said will generate only 16 percent of the United States' electricity in 2035, while cutting $93 million in federal funds for coal research.

By:  Paul J. Nyden