CHARLESTON, W.Va. — One by one, three minutes at a time, speakers got their chance to tell the federal government to scrap the Clean Power Plan or to keep it alive.

The presentations happened as representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency came to West Virginia to hear from members of the public about the proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan, a signature policy of the Obama administration that President Trump has promised to ditch.

Federal environmental regulators heard both from business groups who believe the Clean Power Plan artificially suppresses coal markets and economies in states like West Virginia, as well as those who believe the plan would reduce carbon in the atmosphere, curtail global warming and improve citizen health.

Meetings took place in three different rooms at the Capitol. This was EPA’s only announced public hearing on the Clean Power Plan repeal, although regulators didn’t rule out the possibility of more elsewhere.

Many of the speakers in favor of repeal thanked EPA administrators for coming to West Virginia to hear from coalfields citizens, noting that the Obama administration had not done the same.

Others in favor of the Clean Power Plan suggested EPA should have similar hearings in regions facing the effects of global warming.

The hearings continue on Wednesday at the Capitol. EPA will accept comment on the proposal until January 16, 2018.

Here’s a rundown of some of what citizens, industry representatives and political leaders said on Tuesday:

3:36 p.m. Karen and Rick Watson of Dryfork, WV, speak together, both in favor of the Clean Power Plan. “We think it’s a reasonable reduction in emissions,” she says. “The reductions are achievable, and they’ve been shown to be achievable.”

He adds, “I wanted to point out the negative impacts of eliminating the Clean Power Plan will be felt most severely in other areas and strongly suggest that EPA go to coastal communities near sea level, where the impacts of climate change are already evident and already causing damage.”

3:30 p.m. Oh! There’s another speaker. Francis J Szollosi of the National Wildlife Federation.

“We oppose the repeal. The science of climate change is sound. The legality of EPA moving under the Clean Air Act is sound.”

He adds, “The economic disruption associated with climate change is real and painful.”

3:28 p.m. Going into recess in the House Government Organization room “until we find some more speakers.”

I’m not sure if that means we’ve run out for now or if we’re ahead of schedule or if there was just some built-in cushion for those who decide to speak at the last minute. Maybe they’re going to another room to invite some people to this room.

3:23 Chris Hill describes herself as an environmental advocate in Washington, D.C., who grew up in the mountains of North Carolina.

“The Clean Power Plan sets achievable limits on pollution and provides states with the flexibility that they need,” Hill says. “Many states are already on track to meet or exceed their emissions goals ahead of schedule.”

She says the repeal ignores the reality that alternative energy markets are booming. In contrast, she says, coal has been on an economic downturn. She advocates for efforts to produce greater economic diversification.

3:14 p.m. Rev. Rose Edington of WV Interfaith Power and Light here in Charleston, says she’s discouraged about the unraveling of good laws. She says repeal of the Clean Power Plan is shortsighted.

“We, this state, our nation, our planet, need the Clean Power Plan, and we fear its repeal and the bleakness that would bring to our lives. In 2015, many of us celebrated this hopeful plan. We do not want to lose our clean air for the proverbial mess of pottage.”

Speaking next, Laura Anderko of Georgetown University says she is strongly opposed to the proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan.

“We must keep in mind that the mission of the EPA is to protect human health and the environment,” Anderko says.

She cites fewer health problems and increased productivity based on people’s ability to keep on working rather than missing time for illness.

“The Clean Power Plan is a lifesaving measure,” Anderko says, reducing asthma problems and cardiovascular problems.

3:02 p.m. Jason Bostic of the West Virginia Coal Association talks about the costs of the Clean Power Plan.

“How much damage can be done while we wait for the courts?” Bostic asks, describing the removal of uncertainty of litigation and stability in the coalfields.

3:01 p.m. EPA administrator says he thinks there’s still time for more people to sign up to speak today if they want to.

3 p.m. Brian O’Donnell with Catholic Conference of WV describes the church’s concerns with climate change. He says the effort of the Clean Power Plan should not totally disappear.

He cites concerns over a lack of plans by the administration to come up with an alternative.

2:50 p.m. Barbara Daniels, who is identified with the WV Mountain Party, describes a “fracking onslaught.”

Vickie Wolfe, who describes herself as a concerned citizen who happens to have a Ph.D. in environmental science, says she hadn’t originally thought she’d been speaking today.

“The Clean Power Plan is a good step forward in attenuating the release of greenhouse gases, and it should not be repealed,” Wolfe says.

2:46 p.m. Just got an email about the testimony of Eli Baumwell, policy director for the ACLU. The organization is opposed to repeal on the grounds of climate change and issues of social justice. Here’s a link to ACLU’s blog on the matter.

2:39 p.m. The Clean Power Plan hearings were taking place in three rooms at the Capitol today, and now I’ve hit all three. I’m in the House Government Organization Room, where there are, for one thing, more seats. I also sense a vibe that’s more chill. Maybe everybody just needs coffee.

I’m not sure there’s really a lot of difference in the content from room to room. I’d say my morning in Senate Judiciary was tilted a bit more heavily toward political figures and the coal industry. My early afternoon in Senate Finance was more heavily in favor of environmentalists.

2:22 p.m. Brandon Richardson, a retired firefighter and emergency medical technician from Fayette County, says he’s worried about the repeal of the Clean Power Plan could cost human life. Richardson is affiliated with a group called Headwaters Defense.

“It’s debilitating to my kids and my grandkids. My grandkids are not going to live as long a life as I have because of what we’re doing to them,” says Richardson.

“What we are doing is gross recklessness at the cost of the human population’s health.”

He says the Clean Power Plan is inadequate and needs to be expanded.

“As a society we should be moving forward and we’re making things worse,” Richardson says.

2:04 p.m. Garry Harris of Center For Sustainable  Communities starts with a story about winning the science fair when he was an elementary school student, sparking a career in energy. But he also recalls odors from local manufacturers drifting over his community.

He says the Clean Power Plan is on a strong legal foundation and enforces critical parts of the Clean Air Act.

“Repealing the Clean Power Plan without a replacement would expose millions of Americans to more dangerous pollutants,” says Harris.

He recognizes that the Clean Power Plan would create shifts in employment.

“We urge the EPA to stay on course.”

2 p.m. Monty Boyd of Whayne Supply / Cecil I. Walker  Machinery Co., regional mining equipment dealers, says his industry has experienced many economic up and downs. But he says it’s never been anything like recent history with the EPA.

“Many small businesses did not survive,” Boyd says.

He says he understands the advances to shale gas technology have changed energy markets.

“I am absolutely in favor of free markets,” Boyd says. “However, I strongly oppose government regulations and interventions that dictate the winners and losers in the markets.”

1:47 p.m. Speaker Michael Allen, a member of the Sierra Club, says he is concerned about repeal of the Clean Power Plan. “The magnitude of climate change depends on the amount of greenhouse gases emitted and the sensitivity of earth’s climate to these emissions.”

He says, monetarily, the results of implementing the Clean Power Plan will outweigh the costs, in terms of citizen health and the effects of global warming.

Sally Hanley of the Cleveland area follows up by saying the Environmental Protection Agency should do what its name describes.

“There is almost total agreement on the part of scientists as well as a majority of the American people that global climate change is here now,” she says.

She, too, says not going forward with the Clean Power Plan comes with additional expense and cites the destruction of the recent hurricanes. She adds that the United States is falling behind in terms of emerging energy markets. “China is a world leader.”

1:44 p.m. Speaker Matt Kuhns discusses how more carbon dioxide in the air is affecting agriculture. He says food is less nutritious and that plants are producing more sugar.

“We have ample evidence that using our atmosphere as a dumping site invites a list of dangers,” Kuhns says.

He says we should build on the achievements of the Clean Power Plan and not repeal them.

1:30 p.m. There are three rooms here where the hearing is taking place. I started the day, along with a full house of people, in the Senate Judiciary room. I’m starting the afternoon in Senate Finance.

I’m not sure there’s a big difference in the kind of testimony you hear. I just wanted a change of scenery.

When I sat down, there was a guy starting to talk and I missed his name. But he pointed out the window and said, “Feel how warm it is outside. It feels like it’s Florida.” Indeed, it’s pretty warm outside today.

Noon: Coal industry leaders, miners and West Virginia political figures gathered on the north side of the Capitol for a mid-day lunch break and as a rally. Several took turns at the microphone.

Chris Hamilton of the West Virginia Coal Association gave some of the most interesting remarks, saying he was having to get accustomed to praising the Environmental Protection Agency.

“You talk about being a little conflicted. After 40 years busting on the agency that issued the repeal of this Clean Power Plan and after 40 years of being critical of a lot of their overreaching actions, all of a sudden today our group is saying ‘We love the EPA. We’re so thankful for you being here. We’re so thankful for you taking the steps to repeal this onerous job-killing program and regulation,” Hamilton said.

11:50 a.m. Cosmo Servidio of the Environmental Protection Agency talked with some local reporters about the agency’s reasons for having hearings in West Virginia. He said it’s a possibility that more hearings will be held elsewhere.

He also described the Clean Power Plan as a matter of federal overreach.

“Clearly the Clean Power Plan was an overreach by the previous administration, and this is an opportunity for us to get some feedback as we move forward,” said Servidio, who is an administrator for EPA Region III.

“It’s important that we’re here in West Virginia, coal country. Obviously the coal industry was going to feel the biggest effects of the Clean Power Plan. We’re excited to get this feedback and move forward.”

10:45 a.m. Representatives of the United Mine Workers gathered near the miner statue on the lawn of the Capitol and addressed the Clean Power Plan.

Speaking for the group, attorney Eugene Trisko said the UMW is already involved with the question of what comes after the Clean Power Plan. The plan can’t merely be repealed but has to be replaced with an alternative under the Clean Air Act.

Trisko got pretty deep into the details of regulation. One aspect of what Trisko discussed was incentives to modernize aging power plants, to make them more efficient.

He also talked about the surge of natural gas as a competitor to coal.

“Right now our situation is that natural gas is the fuel of choice for new electric generation. That’s not a happy prospect for us,” Trisko said. “One of the reasons for it is when EPA promulgated new source performance standards, they required carbon capture storage on new coal plants but not on new natural gas plants.

“Now natural gas also emits CO2 at about half the rate. So that created a huge market penalty or disincentive for the construction of new coal plants.”

He went on to say, “The effect of the rule’s repeal here is that the repeal will avoid a loss approximately 230 million tons of U.S. coal production by the year 2025. That is production that would be shut down and replaced with natural gas if this rule had been allowed to remain.

“That represents, for UMWA membership, virtually a death sentence.”

10:33 a.m.  I excused myself for a few minutes to provide an update on MetroNews’ “Talkline.” I’d been sitting on the floor in the front of the Senate Judiciary chamber but moved outside to the crosswalk and stood in the sunshine to talk with Hoppy Kercheval.

10:07 a.m. Speaker Bridget Kelley‐Dearing doesn’t describe herself as being affiliated with any particular group. She says repealing the Clean Power Plan would result in increased costs to people’s health and environmental effects through increased carbon dioxide emissions.

She says that will contribute to global warming and severe weather events.

“Repealing the Clean Power Plan would be a terrible mistake.”

She says it’s shameful to hold one hearing for the whole United States “in the middle of coal country.” That’s in contrast to previous speakers who said they felt left out by hearings not being held here as the Clean Power Plan was under initial consideration.

10:03 a.m. Jack Harrison of the West Virginia Petroleum Council describes reductions in greenhouse gas emissions as natural gas has become more dominant.

“Together we have changed the energy and environmental landscape of this country,” Harrison says.

9:37 a.m. Statement being read on behalf of Sen. Joe Manchin, who can’t be here today. Expresses support for the coal industry and describes WV as an all-of-the-above energy state.

The statement also says Manchin has believed the Clean Power Plan exceeds the authority of the federal government. It says states are best suited to determine how to reduce emissions, but they were not allowed that option.

“The Clean Power Plan was the salt on our state’s economy and our way of life,” Manchin’s letter says.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito, also unable to attend in person, also submits a letter. It welcomes EPA to Charleston and describes Capito as a coal supporter.

9:29 a.m. Bob Murray of WV-based Murray Energy comes forward to speak.

He refers to the “so-called and illegal Clean Power Plan, also called the ‘No Power Plan.'”

“We urge the EPA to immediately repeal the so-called Clean Power Plan immediately,” Murray says.

He applauds the Trump administration for repeal effort and says, “Murray Energy has a vital role in the repeal.” He then applauds the many uniformed coal miners who are here in the Senate Judiciary chamber.

He describes massive costs from complying with the power plan, says the federal plan gets into what should be state regulatory territory and says the plan does not support national security efforts involving reliable energy.

“I just want to say on behalf of Murray Energy, we thank administrator Scott Pruitt for scheduling this hearing in Charleston. And I want to say god bless President Trump and you coal miners. I love you fellas,” Murray concludes.

9:26 a.m. Liz Perera of Sierra Club says the Clean Power Plan presents a reasonable path toward clean energy. She says the coal industry has been suffering regardless of the Clean Power Plan.

“The Clean Power Plan provided a real path to transition for coal communities,” she says, referring to the Power Plus Plan.

She also references premature deaths, asthma and heart attacks as health costs of not moving forward with the Clean Power Plan.

“This is about the kind of world we want to leave for our children,” she says.

9:18 a.m. Jim Probst, the next speaker, is the first one you’d likely call an environmentalist. He state coordinator for the Citizens Climate Lobby and has a furniture making business in Lincoln County.

“I feel a moral responsibility to do all I can to see that we leave behind a livable planet,” he says.

He says he is concerned about coal miners and the economy, but the reality is the industry has been in decline for many years. He cites societal costs of coal mining and says there is potential in other energy sources, such as solar.

“I not only ask that the EPA reconsider repealing the Clean Power Plan but look for ways to make it more effective.”

9:14 a.m. Michael Chirico, a staffer for Congressman Evan Jenkins, is reading a letter from the congressman, who wound up not being able to attend in person. Jenkins is running against Morrisey, the first speaker, for the Republican nomination to the U.S. Senate.

That reminds me — the regulators who are here said they won’t take written statements any less importantly than those delivered verbally here on site. EPA will accept comment on the proposal until January 16, 2018.

Also, I likely won’t update on every single speaker. For one thing, I’m only in one of the three rooms. I’ll try to just hit the highlights of what I’m seeing and hearing.

9:07 a.m. Speakers are being called forward. The first is state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

“It’s an honor to have the EPA here in our beautiful Capitol in Charleston, and I’m honored to be the first speaker,” says Morrisey, who has made a priority of fighting the Clean Power Plan.

“I strongly support the EPA’s proposal to repeal the so-called Clean Power Plan.”

Morrisey is describing the Clean Power Plan as a prime example of federal overreach. “The power plan would have been devastating to West Virginia,” he says.

9:01 a.m. We’re getting underway here in Senate Judiciary, one of multiple rooms where there will be hearings. The room is packed with coal miners. Also, coal titan Bob Murray of West Virginia-based Murray Energy is in the front row.

The first order of business here is for Environmental Protection Agency administrators to provide some background.

8:45 a.m.

Representatives of industry, environmental and citizen groups were signing in to listen and participate in presentations in three different rooms at the Capitol — Government Organization Committee Room (215E) Senate Judiciary Committee Room (208W) Senate Finance Committee Room (451M) Streaming options are available here.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has listed 220 speakers scheduled to take turns over the course of the hearings.

EPA administrator Scott Pruitt signed a notice in October proposing scrapping the Obama administration policy regarding climate change, which is aimed at reducing carbon dioxide levels from power plants through numerous means. This includes allowing states to invest in renewable energy in hopes of limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

The rule was challenged shortly after its August 2015 introduction by 27 state attorneys general, including Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia and Pruitt, who was serving as Oklahoma’s attorney general at the time.

Morrisey is scheduled to speak during Tuesday’s morning session, as is U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., and representatives of Murray Energy Corp., West Virginia Coal Association and various advocacy groups.

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

bubble graphic

bubble graphic
Comments