Coal Tattoo

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., just finished his Senate floor speech a few minutes ago, offering his reasons for voting in favor of a resolution that attempts to revoke an EPA finding that greenhouse gas emissions are a threat to public health and welfare.

The floor debate is continuing, but I’m told that West Virginia’s senior Senator, Robert C. Byrd, will not speak on the floor and has still not decided how he will vote. You can watch the debate live on C-Span here.

We’ve previously addressed Rockefeller’s stance (here, here and here) and explained how the resolution by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, would overturn EPA’s simple backing of the great weight of evidence about the size of the problem climate change presents for our society.

While voting in favor of that measure, Sen. Rockefeller insisted:

I’m not hear to deny or bicker fruitlessly about science, as some would suggest. I think the science is correct, but that doesn’t in one iota deter my support for the Murkowski resolution.

I care deeply about this earth, and I resent anyone who suggests otherwise about me or about the people of my state.

Rather, Sen. Rockefeller argued that his vote was not one against the science, but in favor of putting EPA in its place:

We must send a strong and urgent message that the fate of our economy and our workers, including our coal workers, should never be placed solely in the hands of the Environmental Protection Agency. The elected people and not the unelected EPA have constitutional responsibility here.

Rockefeller’s floor speech focused on his love of coal and coal miners, drawing clearly from the industry’s public relations slogans:

I don’t want EPA turning out the lights on America.

I fight for my people. I understand that I’m a United States senator. But I’m a United States senator from west Virginia.

You can’t run this country without coal. I am for all alternative fuels … but you add them all up, nobody can make the point you can do any of this without coal.

We mine coal.

I’m elected to protect my people and my country. But first comes my people, and especially on this issue.

Sen. Rockefeller criticized those fellow Senators who pointed to the BP Oil Disaster as a reason to vote against the Murkowski resolution and instead get on with the business of passing clean energy and climate change legislation.  He said the two matters were “separate issues” and that the BP Disaster “had no business being discussed while this is being discussed.”

Interestingly, in his zeal to praise “clean coal,” Sen. Rockefeller said:

It’s a triumph when one of our power plants reduces 90 to 95 percent of its carbon dioxide emissions.

Because it happened, and it came to the stimulus package and we were a part of that.

I assume Sen. Rockefeller was talking about American Electric Power’s pilot carbon capture and sequestration project at its Mountaineer Plant in Mason County, W.Va. But the last time I checked, even with the $334 million in federal “stimulus” funding, the AEP project was only going to capture less than 20 percent of the Mountaineer Plant’s carbon dioxide emissions


I’m told that Sen. Rockefeller misspoke, and that his official comments in the Congressional Record will be changed so that this is what he is reflected as saying about CCS:

West Virginia is poised to lead a major part in the effort on clean technology because we know energy. We have lived with it for the last 150 years. We know coal. We know natural gas. We are coming to know CCS as few others do. It is a triumph when one of our power plants reduces 90 percent of the carbon emissions from the flue stream that it treats. That is a triumph to us — maybe to nobody else, but to us it is because it happened and it came from the stimulus package and we were a part of that.

The entire statement is online here.