The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce has joined its counterparts in 12 other states in criticizing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for not including coal country in a nationwide tour to gather comments about potential new Clean Air Act regulations.
On Sept. 30, the EPA announced it would hold 11 public "listening sessions" to gather ideas and input from the public about the best ways to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants.
The agency has already proposed new rules for new power plants that coal industry officials have criticized as too stringent. EPA officials are now beginning to craft new limits for existing plants in order to meet a June 2014 proposal deadline.
The EPA said in its September press release that the feedback from these sessions "will play an important role in helping EPA develop smart, cost-effective guidelines that reflect the latest and best information available."
The tour will hit major cities like Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle. But many politicians have criticized the tour because it will not stop in areas where coal -- the commodity most-affected by new limits -- represents the majority of power generation.
State Chamber President Steve Roberts said the new rules could have a significant affect on West Virginia, which gets 95 percent of its power supply from coal and has its mining industry tied to producing coal for power plants in other states.
"San Francisco, which derives only 1 percent of its electricity from coal, will be one of the EPA's stops," Roberts said in a statement. "Either the Obama administration is unbelievably out of touch or they are afraid to talk to those who are forced to accept their policies."
Roberts has joined Chamber leaders from states like Kentucky, which gets 92 percent of its power from coal, and North Dakota, which is 78-percent coal-powered, to urge the EPA to visit states where coal makes up a higher percentage of its electricity mix.
Last month, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., introduced a resolution requiring the EPA to hold public comment hearings in each of the 15 states most reliant on coal for electricity generation.