Tomblin: not a single coal plant in Mountain State would be legal under proposed EPA rules

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said Monday the only way to comply with new EPA proposed carbon emission rules is “to use less West Virginia coal.”

Tomblin was joined by members of West Virginia’s congressional delegation, state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, coal industry and labor leaders Monday afternoon at the state capitol to react to the proposal announced just a few hours before by federal EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

Tombin said not a single coal-fired power plant, with its current emission numbers, would be in compliance with the proposals. The governor called the proposals “outrageous” and said the state’s “worst fears were realized.”

State DEP Secretary Randy Huffman told reporters the state would be seeking flexibility with the EPA. He said the only coal-fired plant close to the emission levels is the Longview plant near Morgantown. He said unfortunately the technology is currently not in place to reduce the carbon footprint of the other plants if they still want to use coal.

“There is a little bit that can be saved in efficiencies in the plant itself but based on coal combustion technology of today you can’t get there,” Huffman said.

Gov. Tomblin said the state will formulate a plan of response but initially he said it’s likely West Virginia would seek more time to comply.

“If the federal government really wants to set its mind to it (new emission levels) and if the technology can be developed, then it’s going to take some time to do that to continue to burn coal in West Virginia and the United States,” Tomblin said.

West Virginia will also likely seek partnerships with other states in hopes of cutting down on its emissions level. Tomblin said 60 percent of the power produced here goes to other states.

Huffman said states have an emission number to meet by 2030. He said what makes it more difficult is the numbers are on a plant-by-plant basis not just an overall emissions number.

“It’s going to require a significant reduction in combustion of coal and replacement of that by some other energy source,” he said. “Natural gas can do some of it but it’s going to take a lot more than that to obtain that goal by 2030.”

United Mine Workers Union of American President Cecil Roberts said the rules would be devastating to Appalachia when it comes to jobs and spinoff businesses. He said coal is the fastest growing fuel source in the world and there are currently 1,200 coal-fired power plants under construction in the world. Roberts said the Obama administration wants to lead on the climate change issue but not many other nations are following. He said the U.S. is going for a walk by itself.

Gov. Tomblin spoke personally with the EPA’s McCarthy just before his state capitol news conference. He said she promised to listen but he admits it may be difficult to change her mind.

“She seemed open to us giving her the feedback but I’m not sure how much it will change,” Tomblin said.

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