ROANOKE, W.Va. — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin intends to submit a state plan for West Virginia to cut greenhouse gas emissions in compliance with the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, bucking calls from state and national Republicans to ignore the environmental regulations.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan requires each state to cut carbon emissions from power plants by a certain amount, but leaves it to states to decide how to reach those goals. If states do not submit plans, they are threatened with the federal government implementing a plan for them, likely some sort of carbon cap-and-trade system.
Republicans, most prominently U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have called on governors across the country to refuse to submit state plans.
Tomblin said West Virginia would not follow that advice.
“If we do not [submit a plan], like some have suggested and some are doing around the country, obviously EPA will say, ‘OK, if you don’t have a plan you’re going to buy our plan,'” Tomblin said in an interview following his speech at the state Energy Summit at Stonewall Jackson Resort. “I’d prefer to have a plan in place when the time comes. If they don’t agree with it then we’ll at least have a starting point where we can talk.”
The Clean Power Plan was finalized — published in the federal register — on Friday. That same day, West Virginia and 23 other states, along with several coal companies, sued the EPA to block the regulations.
The United Mine Workers of America is also a part of that litigation. Despite that, UMWA President Cecil Roberts said Tuesday that he also thinks the state should go forward with developing its plan to comply with the regulations, intended to help the U.S. secure an international agreement to fend off the worst effects of climate change.
Roberts called for a state-implemented plan to build a new fleet of power plants, co-fired by coal and natural gas, that would use carbon capture and storage technology to meet the EPA’s new greenhouse gas emission standards.
“Shaking our fists at Washington, D.C., and retreating behind our mountains simply won’t cut it anymore,” Roberts said in prepared remarks. “It doesn’t solve the problem.”
States must submit plans, or ask for a two-year extension, by late next year.
Roberts pushed for taking the extension, a decision Tomblin said he is still considering.
The finalization of the Clean Power Plan started a 180-day countdown, during which time the state Department of Environmental Protection must complete a feasibility study on the prospects of a West Virginia compliance plan.
Under a law passed earlier this year, based on model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council, a national conservative group, that study must be submitted to the Legislature, which must approve any state plan.
Tomblin said he hoped the Legislature would be receptive to the plan his administration comes up with.
“To do nothing, or just ignore the EPA, in my opinion is something we should not do. They are the federal regulatory agency,” Tomblin said. “If we can show that we put a lot of time and study into a plan for West Virginia, we would have a better chance of hopefully lessening the pain that they may inflict upon us.”
Tomblin’s openness to comply comes as the state’s congressional delegation continues to fight the regulations.
On Tuesday, U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin, along with 45 other senators, introduced a resolution to block the Clean Power Plan, just the latest piece of legislation they have pushed to block the EPA.
All such legislation would face an almost certain veto from President Barack Obama.
In his speech, Roberts told the crowd of mostly energy executives and lobbyists that, no matter the result of lawsuits against the Clean Power Plan, the next president will still be bound by the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision giving the EPA authority to regulate carbon emissions.
“We can’t ignore that fact,” Roberts said. “Over the next 40 years different presidents will use that authority in different ways.”
Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, said he agreed with Roberts that the state should ask for the two-year extension in implementing the Clean Power Plan, but it was too soon to say if the state should submit its own plan.
“We don’t know if it’s even possible to submit a plan that we can be on board with,” Raney said in an interview.
Roberts called for the Legislature to take advantage of a 1985 law that allows a state agency to issue public bonds to construct new power plants, using a public-private partnership.
This article was written by DAVID GUTMAN from The Charleston Gazette, W.Va. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.