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From the White House to the coalfields: two different perspectives

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin held a ceremonial bill signing Tuesday, signing HB 4346 which creates a framework with how the state can deal with federal guidelines for clean air while protecting coal.


LOGAN, W.Va. — It seemed somewhat ironic Tuesday that at the same time coal supporters were holding a forum on the importance of the industry at Logan High School, President Barack Obama was meeting at the White House with scientists on climate change and how to further deal with carbon emissions.

What was just a coincidence wasn’t lost on West Virginia Coal Association Vice President Chris Hamilton.

“They are promoting the Climate Plan while we are here promoting a bill that’s aimed to mitigate the devastation from the president’s climate plan,” Hamilton said.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin previously signed HB 4346 into law but did it again Tuesday as part of the ceremony.

“It establishes a framework for the state to begin to design and develop its compliance plan (with federal regulations) but at the same time relying on traditional base fuels here in West Virginia,” Hamilton said.

The third National Climate Assessment unveiled at the White House said climate change was here and now. The report said West Virginia could be in for significant heat waves in the years to come.

“Under both emissions scenarios, the frequency, intensity, and duration of heat waves is expected to increase, with larger increases under higher emissions. Much of the southern portion of the region, including the majority of Maryland and Delaware, and southwest West Virginia and New Jersey, are projected by mid-century to experience more than 60 additional days per year above 90°F compared to the end of last century under continued increases in emissions (A2 scenario). This will affect the region’s vulnerable populations, infrastructure, agriculture, and ecosystems,” the report said.

National media reports said Tuesday President Obama would use the latest assessment to further address emission issues while bypassing Congress to get it done.

Back in Logan Hamilton maintained coal would still have to play a role in the nation’s energy future.

“Somebody has to embark on a more commonsense approach and utilize these resources we have,” he said.

More coal-fired power plants are scheduled to close in the next year in West Virginia and the Obama administration’s EPA will release new emission standards for existing power plants in the months ahead. Hamilton said the recent winter was proof the generating capacity is still needed.

“We just narrowly escaped this winter with being able to meet our energy needs,” he said. “Now if we have the same type of winter next year when we are beginning to take these power generators off line, who knows what we will experience.”

The National Climate Assessment is mandated by Congress to be published every four years

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