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Sen. Joe Manchin: EPA taking new aim at coal industry

It is hard not to believe that the Obama Administration is hell-bent on putting the coal industry out of business forever.

The latest evidence of the Administration's anti-coal bias is the Environmental Protection Agency's plan to issue unprecedented regulations governing new fossil fuel-based electric plants.

These proposed regulations would effectively stop the construction of any new coal power plants by requiring new coal-fueled power plants to meet the same standards as new gas-fired plants.

Never before has the EPA lumped coal and natural gas into one source category. To do so now would threaten the affordability and reliability of domestic energy supplies at a critical point in our economic recovery.

The new EPA regulations establish "New Source Performance Standards" (NSPS) that cannot be met even by today's new highly efficient coal technologies. Put simply, the EPA regulations would require new coal-fired plants to be something they are not. Coal is one of our most abundant sources of energy.

It fueled the Industrial Revolution and is the rock on which our global economy is built. Coal made the modern world modern.

And with new and emerging technologies, coal just keeps getting cleaner. In fact, technology is being developed for "zero emission" coal, so we can continue to use it to meet our energy needs and lower emissions at the same time.

Coal-based power generation projects are being developed all across our country, using state-of-the-art technologies that are laying the foundation for revolutionary advancements in power plant efficiency and reduced CO2 levels. These advancements in technology are allowing us to modernize the existing coal-fueled fleet of plants, improving efficiency and reducing emissions while continuing to produce low-cost electricity for homes, offices and factories.

If the proposed EPA rule is adopted, it would effectively ban new state-of-the-art plants from being built. And opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide an economic boost to American manufacturing and construction industries will be lost.

The rule could also have the effect of preventing existing sources from making major upgrades that will improve efficiency while allowing more electricity generation with less fuel and fewer emissions.

I have requested that the President direct the EPA to amend the proposed rule to differentiate standards based on the type of fuel used.

I have said again and again that the government needs to work as an ally, not an adversary, when it comes to developing our nation's energy policy. And yet, here is another example of the Obama EPA acting as adversary of the coal industry, attempting to impose on the industry new and incredibly expensive standards that are also impossible to achieve.  

The EPA provides no explanation for why it wants to regulate coal and natural gas under the same emission standard for the first time in the history of the Clean Air Act. The EPA even admits there is no real benefit. After all, experts agree that emissions from all U.S. power plants have only a tiny impact on global emissions, and this is becoming more evident every year as China, India and other countries dramatically increase their use of fossil fuels.

There is a better way forward, one I have advocated ever since I came to the Senate - an "all-of-the-above" energy policy that effectively and efficiently uses all of our domestic sources in a safe and reliable way.

And such a policy certainly needs to include enabling new advanced coal generation that pays both economic and environmental dividends by replacing old coal units with more efficient, supercritical coal plants.

Now is not the time to endanger those dividends with new, unprecedented and unattainable regulations from the EPA.

Manchin, a Democrat, is West Virginia's junior senator.

 


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