Democratic governors of Montana and West Virginia are rebelling against the Obama administration and challenging federal limits on greenhouse gas emissions, opting out of what critics are calling the Environmental Protection Agency’s “war on coal.”
“The EPA’s proposed limits on greenhouse gas emissions threaten the livelihood of our coal miners to the point of killing jobs and crippling our state and national economies, while also weakening our country’s efforts toward energy independence,” said West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
West Virginia and Montana are joining Kansas in filing an amicus brief to urge the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a challenge to rules that give the federal government the power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The states want the court to rule that the EPA misinterpreted its authority under the Clean Air Act and has overreached.
These aren’t the first Democrats to rebel against the Obama administration’s environmental agenda.
A contingent of Democratic senators have called on the Obama administration to reconsider new emissions rules for coal-fired power plants, which they argue would ruin the coal industry.
“Such a requirement is unprecedented under the Clean Air Act and will have the unfortunate effect of preventing the construction of new coal plants or the upgrading of existing sources,” wrote Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana in a letter to President Obama. “We urge you to consider an alternative approach.”
The EPA is in the process of finalizing new emissions limits for new power plants, which critics argue would effectively ban the construction of coal plants. New natural gas plants would be able to comply with the law without making any upgrades, but coal plants would have to install carbon capture technology — which isn’t commercially viable.
“The EPA’s proposal unfairly targets the coal industry and I strongly urge them to amend this overreach,” said Landrieu in a statement.
The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity reports that more than 280 coal-fired generating units are set for shut down partly due to stricter EPA regulations.
Furthermore, just seven new EPA regulations are set to cost the electrical sector $16.7 billion per year, cause 887,000 job losses per year and contribute to the shutting down of 69,000 megawatts of coal-fired power, according to a report by the National Economic Research Associates.
Coal mines have also fallen under the ‘war on coal’ as the EPA recently won a court case which could allow them to revoke water pollution permits for mining projects years after the project was approved.
West Virginia Democrat Rep. Nick Rahall warned that the court’s decision could “open the floodgates to disrupting coal mining in West Virginia and elsewhere” and “upend the traditional balance that has existed between the states and the federal government in the permitting process.”
Joe Manchin has also been opposed to EPA regulations targeting the coal industry.
“For too long the EPA has overreached with its power at the cost of countless American jobs and critical investments,” Manchin said.
Last month, Manchin and fellow West Virginia Democrat Sen. Jay Rockefeller reintroduced a bill that would prevent the EPA from revoking mining permits once a permit has been issued.
“It’s only fair that when the federal government makes a decision about a permit, that decision doesn’t change. Our workers and businesses need to have that certainty to be able to do their jobs,” said Rockefeller.
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