Manchin Participates in Environment and Public Works Subcommittee Field Hearing in West Virginia
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) made a statement at the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee’s Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee in Logan. He focused on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) harmful regulations and how they’ve affected West Virginia’s economy. Senator Manchin also stressed the importance of passing the Miner’s Protection Act as soon as possible in order to secure health care and retirement security for thousands of West Virginian families.
Senator Manchin said in part: “The coal economy of our state has been devastated. Cheap natural gas prices compounded by a regulatory onslaught from the EPA – an agency that has overstepped its authority time and time again – have put coal production in a downward spiral. We continue to experience persistently high unemployment rates. In this county and the surrounding area – traditionally our largest coal-producing region – we are consistently posting unemployment numbers in the double digits. As we look to diversify our economy, to find our workers new skills and opportunities, to attract investment in the state and to create good middle-class jobs, we must also continue to fight the EPA’s agenda to ensure that clean coal energy has a role in the nation’s and the world’s energy future.”
Read Senator Manchin’s prepared statement below:
Madam Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing to examine the local impacts of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) climate regulations. I want to acknowledge the witnesses, particularly Mr. Gene Trisko of the UMWA, Commissioner Pasley and Mr. Copley, Congressman Jenkins, Chairman Inhofe, Ranking Member Boxer and the Environment and Public Works Committee. And I thank you, Chairman Capito, for inviting me to speak today.
It’s no secret to any of us that West Virginia is facing severe economic challenges. The coal economy of our state has been devastated. Cheap natural gas prices compounded by a regulatory onslaught by the EPA – an agency that overstepped its authority time and time again – have put coal production in a downward spiral. We continue to experience persistently high unemployment rates. In this county and the surrounding area – traditionally our largest coal-producing region – we are consistently posting unemployment numbers in the double digits. Some of our southern counties are posting unemployment rates more than double the national average. For the month of August, Workforce West Virginia reported that, here in Logan County, the unemployment remains at about 10 percent.
• Mingo County 11.7%
• Clay County 9.1%
• Wyoming County 9.4%
• Boone County 8.4%
• McDowell County 12.9%
Since 2008, West Virginia has lost 13,000 coal jobs. The Mine Safety Health Administration (MSHA) reports that, in 2008, there were 2,129 coal mines and prep plants. In 2015, that number was 1,459. That’s a loss of 670. Countless companies have declared bankruptcy. And, “Workforce West Virginia” reports that between July 2015 and July 2016, WV lost 4,800 mining and logging jobs, 700 manufacturing jobs, and 1,700 in trade, transportation and utility jobs. The ripple effect of the near total loss of our state’s biggest energy industry is affecting the daily quality of West Virginian lives - whether it be fewer and fewer grocery stores, childcare options or health care services.
To complicate matters, we just experienced a once-in-a century flood that took West Virginia lives, homes and businesses – a tragic event from which we will be recovering for years. So, when I look at the manner in which the Obama Administration and the EPA have handed down regulation after regulation - entirely outside of the bounds of what Congress intended when it passed legislation like the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act - I can’t help but believe that they did not have a plan for our state or others in Appalachia. And, that is not only infuriating, it is tragic.
Historically, West Virginia has been an energy exporter. Our home state sits on abundant reserves of coal and natural gas. In its 2016 Annual Energy Outlook, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) projected that, in a Clean Power Plan scenario, coal consumption by the electricity sector will make up about 18 percent of our generation portfolio through 2040. While cheap natural gas has been a major factor in the downturn in coal production, it is important to remember that we have ridden the markets before and coal remained a competitive fuel. It is undeniable that EPA’s regulatory overreach is the catalyst behind the transition away from coal in West Virginia and the nation at large. And it is also clear to me that there was no and is no consideration by this Administration of how West Virginia will secure a role in the nation’s clean energy future.
The EPA’s new source performance standard for power plants and the Clean Power Plan for existing power plants are both examples of the EPA legislating instead of regulating. I have introduced, co-sponsored and supported legislation that would roll back climate regulations and other harmful EPA rules. I co-sponsored Senator Capito’s Affordable Reliable Energy Now Act (ARENA) reining in the harmful effects of the Clean Power Plan. I introduced the Clean Air, Strong Economies Act which stems the economic harm of the new ozone standard. And I also support the Ozone Standards Implementation Act. I championed the coal ash legislation that just passed the Senate. I introduced legislation that would require EPA to base its regulatory standards on technology that is actually proven and commercially available for use. The first bill that I introduced as a United States Senator was legislation that would prevent the EPA from retroactively vetoing mine permits.
In unprecedented legal action in 2010, I sued the EPA for overstepping its bounds regarding mountaintop removal practices in West Virginia’s coal industry to ensure states have the power to oversee, regulate and protect their citizens and resources. And, earlier this year, I joined 33 of my colleagues in the Senate and 171 members of the House in filing a brief with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the legality of the Clean Power Plan. Oral arguments were heard just last week on this case – West Virginia v EPA - and I will say again that I hope the Court recognizes that the EPA is on very shaky legal ground.
First, Congress never authorized the EPA to make the policy choices contained in the Clean Power Plan. Second, the 1990 Amendments to the Clean Air Act included changes to section 111(d) that prohibit concurrent regulations of existing power plants if those plants are already regulated under section 112 and existing coal plants are already regulated under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act for hazardous air pollutants. And, third, the rule violates “cooperative federalism” because the federal government cannot compel states to implement a regulatory program. The federal government can set national standards while leaving the administration, implementation and enforcement of those standards to the states. That’s what Congress did in the Clean Air Act.
Furthermore, I do not believe that the EPA consulted with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) or the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) in a comprehensive meaningful way to determine the true effects of this rule on the reliability of our electric grid. Coal has delivered reliable affordable baseload energy to this country for decades. The ongoing closures of coal-fired power plants will undoubtedly put our grid at greater risk.
I remain unconvinced that these issues have been addressed. The Courts must vacate this rule.
Fossil fuels are going to continue to be a major part of both domestic and global energy consumption for purposes of electricity generation for decades to come. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) and the International Energy Agency have confirmed this. Therefore, I believe that we must further develop and commercialize carbon capture, utilization and sequestration (CCUS) in order to secure a future for reliable affordable coal energy both here at home and abroad.
We must put the necessary infrastructure in place to take advantage of the robust opportunities that come from our abundant natural resources, while ensuring the reliability of our electric grid. But, instead of looking to technology and infrastructure to clean up these fossil fuels and secure the future of energy-producing states like West Virginia, the EPA has taken it upon itself to legislate a climate agenda that Congress never authorized.
West Virginia has helped powered the nation for decades. As we look to diversify our economy, to find our workers new skills and opportunities, to attract investment in the state and to create good middle-class jobs, we must also continue to fight the EPA’s agenda to ensure that clean coal energy has a role in the nation and the world’s energy future. Thank you, Madam Chair.
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