June 17, 2012

State has lots to offer with energy: Coal has been ‘driving force,’ but West Virginia is using other resources | Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — Coal. Natural gas. Water. Wind. 

They’re all proven energy sources. 

And they can all be found right here in West Virginia. 

State and federal leaders saw that firsthand during a tour Friday and Saturday when they traveled throughout the Mountain State to see just what it has to offer in terms of reliable energy, whether it comes in the form of coal and natural gas or other sources such as water and wind. 

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., was joined by members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to tour energy production sites across the state. U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., both participated in the tour. 

It was all in an effort to show federal leaders that West Virginia has implemented an “all-of-theabove” approach to energy as opposed to the “one-size-fits-all” approach on the federal level. 

Manchin said the group visited a wind plant and coal-fired power plant, as well as toured coal fields in the southern part of the state, saw the drilling process at a Marcellus shale site and visited a hydroelectric site at Summersville Lake. 

And while coal has been the driving force in West Virginia, Manchin noted that the tour helped prove the state is doing everything it can to address future needs. 

“I think people have thought of us as coal and coal only. That’s the biggest part, and it’s been basically the driving force,” Manchin said Saturday. “But we’re trying to embrace all of this, and with new technology we do it even better. We just don’t want to be written out of the equation.” 

Manchin called the tour “a big deal,” noting that it showed that the nation’s leaders can work together in a bipartisan effort to address the energy needs necessary to compete in a global economy. 

He said that with the retirement of Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N. M., either Murkowski or Wyden as ranking members of their parties on the committee are poised to take over the chairmanship. 

“We’re working with them to create an energy policy that works for everyone,” Manchin told the Times West Virginian 

Friday evening after the first day of touring several energy sites in West Virginia. “We want them to see everything, to see how (West Virginia) uses all of the resources the good Lord gave us. And we are using the latest and greatest technology to do it in a responsible way.” 

That includes generating electricity from coal-fired plants retrofitted with the latest technology to minimize carbon emissions. 

“The thing is, this is a golden opportunity for the state of West Virginia to have both ranking members of the energy committee and to show them all that we are willing to do — we are burning coal cleaner than ever in the history of this country,” Manchin explained. “We can’t continue to let EPA write off coal. 

“We need an ‘all-in’ policy — just one source doesn’t work,” Manchin said. “We need to abide by the Clean Air and the Clean Water Act. If we don’t have the technology, we need to develop the technology.

“We need a government and an EPA that works with us, not against us — as a partner, not an adversary.” 

That sentiment wasn’t lost on Murkowski, who on Saturday said she enjoyed the “pretty incredible” tour and viewed it as an opportunity to take some great ideas back to Washington, D.C. 

She also noted that for more than 100 years, West Virginia has been supplying the country with an affordable, reliable source of energy through coal. 

“What’s been coming out of West Virginia historically is a product that we have come to rely on,” Murkowski said. “It ought not be in past tense then when we talk about West Virginia’s role in the energy portfolio.” 

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin also spoke of West Virginia’s energy portfolio Saturday, pointing out that the state has a coal-fired power plant that has implemented a multi-million dollar carbon capture and sequestration project to ensure that large quantities of carbon dioxide aren’t released into the atmosphere. He also touted the fact that West Virginia lawmakers were the first to regulate drilling in the Marcellus shale region. 

“We are an energy state and we will continue to be an energy state,” Tomblin said. 

Murkowski said that’s something West Virginia can use to its advantage, adding that individual states must focus on what they have and move forward with those resources. 

“It not only helps them and jobs within their state, but it helps the rest of the nation,” she said. 

“As states, we are capable of a great deal. We have some extraordinary resources throughout the country. I think we have the desire to access them. We also have the responsibility to access them in concert with the environment ... ,” she said, noting that the roadblock is typically the federal government, but she and Wyden want to work to change that. 

Overall, Manchin said it was an important weekend for West Virginia. 

“I think it gives a little bit of light on who we are, what we’ve been doing, what we will continue to do and how we will work to continue to help,” he concluded. 

By:  Nicole Fields