Here’s an idea … instead of spending all of their time just complaining about U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules, a couple of groups in West Virginia have put their heads together to come up with recommendations for how the state could comply with EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan. You can read the new report — just out this morning — from the West Virginia College of Law’s Center for Energy and Sustainable Development and Downstream Strategies here.
Achieving compliance with the Clean Power Plan presents a number of challenges for West Virginia. The state’s heavy reliance on coal-fired electricity generation and the importance of the coal industry in the state economy mean that West Virginia will bear a disproportionate impact from the proposed rule as less coal is burned at power plants within the state, and as other states that have historically imported West Virginia coal reduce their consumption. Burning less West Virginia coal at power plants—both within West Virginia and around the country—means fewer coal mining jobs and reduced severance tax revenue for the state and municipalities. While these challenges appear stark in the face of carbon pollution mandates, they have persisted in West Virginia for decades and in recent years have grown increasingly more pressing as market forces converged with increasingly stringent environmental regulations. West Virginia is uniquely positioned to adapt to these changes and meet the many challenges facing the Mountain State. While West Virginia power plants must reduce coal consumption to comply with the Clean Power Plan, the state’s utilities can at the same time make new investments in other energy resources developed in West Virginia.
Policymakers in West Virginia can mitigate the negative impacts of the Clean Power Plan and take advantage of the opportunities it presents by utilizing the full flexibility provided by the rule to shape a strategy for West Virginia that reflects its unique circumstances and leverages its strengths. West Virginia is fortunate in that it has tremendous energy resources in addition to coal, and these other resources—including natural gas, renewable energy (wind, solar, hydropower), and energy efficiency—are relatively untapped. Implementing the legislative and regulatory policy recommendations in this report would create a climate that promotes new investment in renewable and distributed generation technologies, energy efficiency, and natural gas–fired generation. By spurring innovation and diversifying the state’s electric power sector, Clean Power Plan compliance would reduce carbon pollution and provide West Virginians with energy savings and new economic opportunities.
We’ll have more on this later, and there’s also a piece on it out this morning from West Virginia Public Broadcasting.