Update: EPA guidelines cause controversy

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Updated: 10/29/2015 5:30 P.M.

Marietta, Ohio (WTAP)- Lawmakers and attorney generals around the nation already oppose it.

Now.-utilities line up against the EPA's clean power plan.

Ohio's rural electric companies, which include Washington Electric Cooperative, say the plan replaces the cap-and-trade program Congress rejected seven years ago.

Washington Electric says it already has made changes to its coal-fired power plants and employed other ways of producing clean energy.

"We've already spent $1.2 billion in upgrading our coal-burning power plant, the Cardinal plant at Brilliant, Ohio," says General Manager and CEO Ken Schilling. "We believe it's one of the cleanest coal-burning plants in the United States, and, very possibly the world. We think we're somewhat ahead of the curve."

Schilling says those improvements increased customers' bills by more than $20 a month.

The EPA supported regulations could raise them by even more, if they're implemented.

Schilling says that could be a burden on Ohio coal miners, who already face losing their jobs.

Updated: 10/23/2015 6:15 P.M

The Environmental Protection Agency publishes its final version of new regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

And states-including West Virginia and Ohio-again file challenges.

It's called the "Clean Power Plan".

What it is, basically, is the final part of already-announced EPA regulations for coal-fired power plants, published Friday in the Federal Register.

In all, two dozen states said they are filing challenges to the final version of the regulations.

They describe the plan as an illegal overreach that, in addition to eliminating coal jobs, will raise electricity costs.

"It's critical that West Virginia and many states stand up to the EPA overreach," said State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. "If this rule stays in effect, it's going to have a terrible effect on jobs, on the price of electricity, and the reliability of the grid."

"Clean energy is going to stimulate, create untold numbers of jobs," says Bill Ambrose of the Parkersburg-based Citizens Climate Lobby. "That point seems to be lost on our opponents."

Ambrose says coal already is being surpassed by natural gas as a cleaner alternative fuel for energy production.

Supporters add West Virginia coal production is down, because coal from midwestern and western states costs less.

Update: 10/15/2015 7:00 P.M.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito visits a Parkersburg business.

The Republican Senator Tuesday drove machinery at Walker Parkersburg, and met with both management and employees.

They discussed issues affecting the heavy equipment industry...including EPA regulations for coal-fired power plants.

"I already have two questions, from people who are concerned about coal," she told us. "They see what it's doing to this company and other companies, with layoffs and people losing their jobs. Even then, the discussion is, ' how are we going to power this country," and what's the destruction of the economy as we see here, moving forward with the president's policies."

On political matters, Capito says she's not one of the members who is dissatisfied with the Senate leadership.

The former congresswoman believes Congressman Paul Ryan, the 2012 Republican Vice-Presidential nominee, would make a fine Speaker of the House.

Ryan so far has not indicated he will run for the post.

During her visit to the area, Capito also spoke to the senior class at Parkersburg High School.

Update: 5/06/2015 7:10 P.M.

West Virginia versus the EPA: the battle continues.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito Tuesday chaired a hearing examining the legal implications of what's being called the "clean power plan".

She says her main concern about the plan is that it's being implemented nationwide...

Where, in the past, states enforced regulations according to their own environmental problems.

Said Capito in an interview with WTAP Wednesday afternoon: "So before we tell states they have to do this, let's see if the President really has the legal authority and that is very much in question."

State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey testified at Tuesday's hearing.

Morrisey also recently testified at a hearing in the nation's capitol, against proposed regulations of coal-fired power plants.

Update 4/15/2015 10:15 P.M.

The U.S. Court of Appeals Thursday hears arguments on two related cases against the EPA.

Both involve the proposed reduction of carbon dioxide emissions of coal-fired power plants.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey will argue against those regulations, saying they amount to "double regulation": a violation of the 1990 Clean Air Act.

But a Marietta College environmental studies professor doubts the proposed regulations will be overturned.

"If you're the Obama administration, you should have to go to Congress to make your points," Morrisey said in an interview this week with WTAP. "Don't try to push an illegal proposal that ultimately is not going to survive in court."

"For the courts to rule in favor of the parties going against the EPA rule, would be for them to go against their established precedents," says Dr. Eric Fitch of Marietta College.

West Virginia, Ohio and a half-dozen other states are parties in the suit.

Representatives of those states believe the U.S. EPA is seeking the emissions curbs to make it economically impossible for coal to be burned to generate electricity.

UPDATE 9/5/2014 11:06 AM

We've been following this story for a while now - the EPA's clean air regulations.

Just Wednesday, West Virginia's attorney general filed a motion against the EPA.

West Virginia is challenging the lawfulness of the carbon monoxide rule.

He say it's illegal and the EPA doesn't have the authority to regulate coal-fired plants.

Patrick Morrisey says he's afraid electricity bills will skyrocket, jobs will be lost and oil and natural gas will be hit next.

"We want to do everything we can to message to West Virginians and the rest of the country that this rule is not likely to be finalized. Therefore, we don't want people to start to move, we don't want the market to move away from coal too early. Everyone needs to take their time, make sure that we get this right so only a lawful regulation can be put into effect," he says.

West Virginia isn't alone.

Morrisey says if the EPA is successful, it will not only hurt West Virginia, but Ohio and Kentucky as well.

UPDATE 7/31/2014 10:25 AM

An issue strong enough to bring together the states of West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Thousands of miners arrived at the steel city to rally against the new EPA regulations.

Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency will hold hearings in Pittsburgh on proposed regulations for coal-fired power plants.

One day ahead of that, coal miners were joined by leaders from each of the three states in protesting those regulations.

West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and Ohio Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor joined Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett in speaking before the more than two thousand people, mostly miners.

All of them say the proposed regulations will not only put miners out of work - they will also drive up what we pay to keep the lights on.

"I think it will drive other jobs away. Businesses are going to go where they can find the cheapest electricity. With these new regulations, it's not going to be West Virginia, Pennsylvania or Ohio," says Gov. Tomblin.

"In Ohio, we've already reduced carbon emissions 30% since 2005. They're asking us to reduce another 30%. It's impossible," says Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor.

Governor Tomblin agrees, saying the technology to meet the federal goals doesn't exist.

He's calling on the Obama administration to compromise on the standards.

The rally comes one day after members of West Virginia's Congressional delegation appeared at a public hearing, speaking out against the proposed regulations.

After Wednesday's coal rally West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey dropped by the station.

Morrisey says miners want to see state officials fighting back, since the carbon regulations could put a lot of existing coal fired power plants out of business.

"But one of my biggest concerns is that if you take these regulations and they are being issued by these unelected bureaucrats and they are doing it in an illegal manor. That's a problem. Step back, have a real debate in Congress over this. Try to reach some consensus, but don't, since you didn't get it through Congress, go through the EPA and go around the traditional process that's established by the Constitution," he says.

Morrisey says he wants to give confidence to the people of the state that we have good legal arguments despite the long battle ahead.

UPDATE 6/23/2014 5:10 PM

Another close decision, but a victory for states defending themselves from the war on coal.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court says the EPA overstepped its boundaries.

Justices are referring to when the EPA changed the emissions limit for coal fired power plants and tried to require those plants to get permits before building or expanding their facilities.

Monday in Washington the Supreme Court said greenhouse gases could be one consideration in the permit process but could not be the only reason for requiring a permit.

A pair of local lawmakers support Monday's ruling.

Congressman Bill Johnson says this is a step in the right direction for fighting back against what he calls repeated examples of government overreach.

"This should serve as notice to President Obama and his EPA that they do not have the authority to expand their rule making beyond the scope of what was included in the statute that passed Congress," says Johnson.

We're also hearing from Congressman Nick Rahall.

He said in a statement: "Today's narrow ruling represents a chink the EPA's armor. Those of us fighting to protect coal jobs have been arguing that the agency is out of control and stretching it's authority far beyond legal limits".

The 5-4 ruling still allows the EPA to limit greenhouse gas emissions from more than three-fourths of facilities nationwide.

Another important note - the decision does not impact efforts to cut emissions by 30 percent over the next 2 decades.

UPDATE 6/23/2014 12:10 PM

The Supreme Court delivered a minor set back Monday to the Obama administration's efforts to fight global warming.

In a 5-4 decision, justices said the Environmental Protection Agency overstepped its authority when it changed the emissions threshold for green house gases and tried to require power plants and other stationary sources of pollution get permits before building or expanding their facilities.

The court said green house gases could be one consideration in the permit process but could not be the only reason for requiring a permit.

The narrow ruling still allows the agency to limit green houses gas emissions from 83 percent of stationary sources.

The decision does not impact the EPA's efforts to cut power plant emissions by 30 percent before 2030.

UPDATE 6/5/2014 4:45 PM

Across party lines, across state lines.

An Ohio senator is working with a West Virginia senator to fight the EPA.

U.S. Senator Rob Portman is among those upset at the new carbon dioxide rules for existing coal-fired power plants.

He says there's bi-partisan support for raising questions about those rules.

The junior Republican senator from Ohio is a member of the Senate Energy Committee, as is the junior Democratic senator from West Virginia.

"The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is before our committee, trying to get some people confirmed. What Joe Manchin and I are telling them is, if EPA puts out a rule like this, and it results on reliability problems on the grid, meaning we might not have electricity during a cold winter or hot summer, you guys need to tell them that and be part of this discussion," says Portman.

Senator Portman questions the need for those restrictions, noting several major utility companies have said they are already more than halfway toward meeting them.

UPDATE 6/3/2014 4:45 PM

Climate change and the environment.

But now there is a push to change the political climate of this debate from people living it right here at home.

An Ohio House committee approved the bill and the state Senate is working on its own legislation.

Area Representative Andy Thompson is one of the sponsors of the bill.

He says it was in the works before Monday's EPA announcement of the new carbon dioxide rules for coal-fired power plants.

The Ohio legislation requires any plans for emissions coming from the state to protect electric affordability and reduce harm it would cause both business and residential customers.

The state Senate is working on similar legislation of its own.

"Rather than the federal authorities dictating how we have to comply, meaning you have to achieve it this way with the following mandates, we wanted Ohio to come up with its means for compliance," says Thompson.

"The bill would require states to set carbon standards, based on what's achievable, through efficiency improvements and other reasonable measures that can be undertaken at existing power plants," says State Senator Lou Gentile, 30th District, Ohio.

Representative Thompson says the House bill could be voted on as soon as Wednesday.

Ohio gets about two-thirds of its electricity from coal and the percentage in West Virginia is even higher.

Congressman Bill Johnson believes the EPA and the President needs Congressional approval before enacting the new rules.

He says power related jobs across the industry are at stake, but so are the prices people pay for their power.

Johnson spoke to WTAP Tuesday, one day after the EPA's announcement of the new rules.

He says they will do little to reduce the world's output of greenhouse gases.

"For us to put America on this sidelines, while the rest of the world-China, India, other competitive countries-are using coal to fuel their energy needs, and to spur their manufacturing facilities on, that's not the right way to go about this," he says.

Johnson says Congress plans to hold hearings on the new regulations.

UPDATE 6/3/2014 11:45 AM

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - An Ohio House committee approved a bill intended to limit the state impact of a newly announced federal plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants 30 percent by 2030.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the rule Monday, part of President Barack Obama's goal of reducing pollution linked to global warming.

The federal action would give states years to submit plans to cut power plant pollution.

Ohio's bill would require any such plan coming from the state to protect electric affordability and reliability and to minimize harm to industrial, commercial and residential consumers. The panel's approval sends it to the House floor.

Some states that rely heavily on coal objected to the federal effort. Ohio gets 70 percent of its electricity from coal.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Update: 6/02/2015 5:15 P.M.

Democrats and Republicans may not agree on much these days, but in the Mountain State, they put on a united front in opposition to the EPA's and the Obama administration's latest rules.

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin Monday said none of the state's coal-fired power plants could currently meet the standards the EPA outlined earlier in the day.

Both area congressional representatives said the rules represent an agenda President Obama has had since he campaigned for office six years ago.

"All he's done is embarking on a fight that isn't going to solve the problem," said 1st District Congressman David McKinley. "It's going to address some of the problems in America, but it's going to put a lot of people out of work."

"I think they're listening to an agenda that started when the president ran in 2008," said 2nd District Congressman Shelley Moore Capito, "when he said. ' If you want to build a new coal-fired power plant, we'll bankrupt you.' And he's just now putting that into effect."

Congressman McKinley acknowledges climate change may be a concern, but reducing emissions in America alone won't change much.

Both say the new rules is another way the president is trying to get around a congress that doesn't go along with him.

Capito's Democratic opponent for the U.S. Senate, Natalie Tennant, also weighed in.

In a prepared statement, Tennant said Washington needs to work with West Virginia on technologies that would ensure the continued use of coal and reduce emissions.

U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller made similar comments:

"Already, we’ve seen successes with clean coal technology in West Virginia, and countries around the world are innovating to reduce carbon emissions from coal. We have the brightest minds and the competitive spirit to solve this challenge – but achieving this goal means finding the political will to invest real federal dollars in clean coal technology rather than continuing to rely solely on the private sector."


UPDATE 5/9/2014 5:05 PM

Fighting the EPA.

Coal industry and state officials make their stand on new rules for new power plants.

Friday was the deadline for comments to new rules intended to control greenhouse gases - rules aimed at construction of new coal-fired power plants.

These are proposed rules the acting director of the West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection says are based on technology that hasn't been proven to be practical.

Coal industry executives from both West Virginia and Kentucky Friday discussed a letter sent to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, explaining their opposition to the new rules.

Among other things, they're concerned about what effect they would have on electric power customers.

"We don't know how much that effect would be, but people who are already struggling to make ends meet, would have more difficulty with high electricity prices," says Fred Durham, acting air quality director with the WVDEP. "It's definitely going to retard economic development, and it would certainly affect families that are on fixed incomes."

Coal industry representatives say the rules would increase the cost of building new coal-fired power plants by as much as 80 percent.

They say make it impossible for new coal-fired plants to be built, at a time when older plants, including two in our area, are closed or in the process of closing.

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin has proposed legislation which, in part, limits the EPA's ability to impose standards, particularly if they are not technologically feasible.

The 'Good Neighbor' rule -- first passed by the EPA in 2011, was upheld this week by the US Supreme Court.

It's obviously a big issue here at home, where these plants are the source of our livelihood.

For years, under two administrations, they struggled to carry out a directive under the Federal Clean Air Act to protect downwind states from pollution generated in other states.

The Supreme Court gives the EPA more ammunition in the war on coal, an environmental victory for the Obama administration and cleaner air for you.

"I think it's a great ruling,” says Dr. Eric Fitch, associate professor of environmental science at Marietta College. “We've known back easily into the late 1950s, early 1960s with some of the research done at Rutgers that certain pollutants can travel great distances in the atmosphere."

American Electric Power on the other hand, found the ruling disappointing.

"I mean, we did have concerns with the original rule just because of the way that the implementation plans were put in place. We think it's appropriate for the states to set the emission limits for meeting the standards,” says Melissa McHenry, director of external communications for AEP.

We have many coal fired power plants and steady prevailing winds.

"A lot of the pollution that's created here in the Ohio Valley follows the winds that go north/northeast,” Fitch says. “Sulfur oxides, nitrous oxide, even some of the particulates. A lot of the pollutants that come out of these stacks here in the Valley actually end up going into the air sheds in the northeast."

McHenry doesn't support the ruling, but agrees emissions from coal fueled power plants have already been reduced significantly.

"By more than 80 percent since 1990 and in the next few years, we're going to be retiring about one fourth of our coal-fueled generating plants or coal-fueled generating capacity, the generating units."

Fitch says that moving away from dirtier fossil fuels is at least a step in the right direction.

"We're starting to pay attention to those impacts on climate change, disruption of natural environments, disruption of the hydrologic cycle that we're looking at down the line if we keep going at the rate we're going,” he says.

According to the EPA, the investments would far outweigh the hundreds of billions of dollars in health care savings from cleaner air.

But not everyone is on the same page.

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