July 30, 2014

Manchin Testifies At EPA Hearing on Existing Source Rule

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) today testified in Washington, D.C. at one of the four public hearings that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is holding this week on the proposed Clean Power Plan that would limit carbon dioxide emissions from existing fossil fuel power plants. Additional hearings are being held in Atlanta, Denver and Pittsburgh. The purpose of the hearings is to provide individuals, organizations and interested parties the opportunity to express their ideas, concerns, viewpoints, data, questions or arguments in regards to the proposed rule. 

Please read the full text of Senator Manchin’s remarks below. 

Representatives of the Administration and EPA, I appreciate the chance to discuss today an issue vital to the past, present and future of my state, our nation, and the world.  

On June 3rd, President Obama and the EPA released this proposed rule to control carbon dioxide emissions from existing fossil fuel power plants. As I’ve stressed throughout this process, our nation needs to strike the right balance between energy needs and global environmental concerns. I am very concerned that the EPA’s new carbon emissions rule does not adequately strike that balance. 

As we have conversations about creating our future energy policies, we often overlook the human impact and the citizens who depend on reliable, affordable energy every day. We need to keep in mind how expensive electricity costs already are and all those who bear the brunt of the government’s decisions. 

Think about the families who are struggling to pay their bills every month; our seniors who spend more time in their homes than most, but who cannot afford excessive heating or cooling bills; and our businesses that rely more than ever before on electric power to boot their computers, charge their technology, and power the equipment they need to be successful. Think about the economic calamity we would face, not just across America, but around the world, if the lights went out or became too costly to use.  

There is no question that global warming is real and that seven billion people have impacted the world’s climate. There is also no doubt that fossil fuels will be part of our energy portfolio for years to come. 

Those who choose not to believe that are deniers. 

We have too many deniers on both sides. 

This debate is about affordability and reliability – not just desirability.

Fossil fuel energy is vital to our nation’s economy and security. Fossil fuels currently provide 68 percent of our country’s electric generation. The Administration’s own Energy Information Administration projects coal and gas will continue to provide almost 64 percent of our power through 2030 and that coal will comprise 31 percent of that power. 

Fossil fuels, especially coal, are vital right now in keeping electricity affordable.  In West Virginia, for example, the average electricity price in March was 7.5 cents per kilowatt hour.  On the coasts, electricity prices are often above 15 cents.  

The importance of coal reliability was never clearer than during the Polar Vortex.  Because of the weather, natural gas supply was low and demand was very high, not only for electricity generation but also to heat homes and power businesses. Gas supply actually declined compared to the year before. Prices skyrocketed. 

Coal, on the other hand, provided 92 percent of the generation increase required to avoid blackouts and the ensuing tragedy.  As one electricity CEO said, “We dodged a cannonball.”  Coal is the reason why…

The economic contributions of coal are also enormous.  Coal is mined in 25 states and provides more than 760,000 good-paying jobs.  In addition to electricity, coal is required for production of steel, cement, paper, plastics, water purification and electronics.

And coal isn’t going away around the world.  By 2040, China will get 62 percent of its electricity from coal, India will get 56 percent and developing countries in Southeast Asia will get up to 30 percent.  Construction of some 1,200 new coal plants is planned across 59 countries – 363 in China and 455 in India alone.

The world consumes more than 8 billion tons of coal per year, and as we’ve done time and time again with products used around the world, the U.S. must lead the way in development of better and cleaner technologies.  We won’t make progress on climate change any other way. 

Many know that traditional pollutants – sulfur, nitrogen, mercury and particulates – have all been cut from coal emissions by 80 percent or more.  What is less known is that utilities and their providers have already reduced carbon emissions by 23 percent compared to 2005 levels. 

A couple of things the President has said have encouraged me.  Recently, the President stated that “we need new technology to break the old rules.”  He also said that opposition to his rule reflected “a lack of faith in American business and American ingenuity.’  And at West Point he said, “American influence is always stronger when we lead by example.”

Here’s a great example – the coal fleets of China, India and Australia are much newer than ours, but their average thermal efficiency is not better than ours – it’s actually worse!!  U.S. technology will be the answer, as it always has been.

We can make the President’s statements come true.  With policies that boost public-private sector coordination, we will finish the first carbon capture and storage plants and develop the second generation.  When that happens, we will be able to use fossil fuels while producing almost no emissions.  Research and Development in coal technologies have provided great value to taxpayers – a return of 13 dollars for every one dollar of federal funding.

Our efforts will require the kind of commitment the President talked about. I’ve taken several recent actions to address the future of coal in our country. Some of these have already been successful:

  • The Administration agreed to a request to extend the comment period for the existing source rule to 120 days.

  • DOE lowered its application fees for loan guarantees to build advanced fossil projects.

Much, much more needs to be done.  I hope the Administration will join me in these efforts. For example:  

  • The Department of Energy currently has $8 billion in loan guarantees available for advanced fossil projects. These guarantees were authorized in 2005 and must now immediately go to plant projects so we can lead the world in developing cleaner technologies. 

  • Similarly, DOE has had $1.7 billion available since 2009 for advanced fossil grants. These funds must also be made available immediately.

  • We need to remove current rules that prohibit advanced fossil fuel programs from receiving federal grants and loan guarantees at the same time and remove regulatory impediments that delay or discourage efficiency projects

  • We must ensure DOE uses its statutory authority to make sure EPA rules don’t endanger grid reliability. 

  • We must provide tax incentives for efficiency upgrades at existing plants, Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and use of CO2 for commercial purposes.

  • Finally, we need to recognize that Russia is proceeding to cut off natural gas shipments to Ukraine.  America needs to help Ukraine, and I can think of no better way than using our clean coal technology to advance their energy security. The Ex-Im Bank can help provide that funding. 

If we get these rules wrong and miss the opportunities before us, we’ll compromise reliability and lose the low-priced energy needed to grow our economy. We won’t deploy technologies that will enable us to use coal cleaner now and in the future. American ingenuity should be harnessed right now – not restrained – to ensure our future at home, and to be a leader for the world. 

As I continue to work with my colleagues to reduce our nation’s carbon emissions, job creation, energy production and our economic future will remain top priorities. Our government needs to work as an ally, not an adversary, when it comes to our nation’s energy policies. 

I stand ready to work with this Administration to come up with commonsense solutions to develop smarter regulations and strike the balance between a prosperous economy and a cleaner environment. The time to act is now.