W.Va. Coal Association not optimistic about the next four years

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A day after President Joe Biden took office, the West Virginia Coal Association continued to be on guard. Appearing on Thursday’s MetroNews Talkline, Chris Hamilton of the Coal Association noted they are optimistic they’ll be able to talk to the President and his staff, but after that all bets are off.

“We are optimistic we’ll have an audience with President Biden and his team to talk about the importance of base load generation so we can provide energy security going forward and keep the economics of state’s like West Virginia going forward,” Hamilton said.

“On the other hand, we’re bracing for a pretty tough time here in the next four years,” he said.

Among President Biden’s first actions was to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline permits and to rejoin the Paris Climate Accords. Also happening on Biden’s first day came a ruling by the D.C. Federal Circuit Court which struck down a Trump Administration plan, the Affordable Clean Energy Rule. The rule was created to negate the Obama Era Clean Power Plan and to create what industry leaders called more reasonable standards on carbon based fuels for electric generation.

Environmental groups blasted the ACE plan as an authorization to continue to get around restrictions on burning coal. Their goal is to discourage the use of coal as an energy source for the future and to eventually end all coal fired power generation.

“I think the plan now is to wait and see how the legal aspect of this plays out. There’s always the ability to appeal the D.C. Circuit’s ruling, but we’ll have to wait and see what posture new Administration and new EPA take,” Hamilton added.

Since the Trump era ACE Plan, Hamilton said West Virginia was far ahead of other states in working with power providers, specifically the Long View Power Plant outside Morgantown, to comply with the new federal emission standards. But those standards have been a moving target and have changed repeatedly in recent years with changing administrations. Hamilton noted the continued uncertainty becomes hard on all industries tied to the regulations.

“We’re facing some of the highest unemployment and slowdowns we’ve experienced since the Great Depression, so it makes little sense to us in the fossil energy sector to be optimistic. We’re going to have a federal administration that takes aim at doing away with hundreds of thousands of good paying American jobs,” he said.

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