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West Virginia Republicans attack EPA plan to curb power plant pollution

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule could help prevent 600 million metric tons of pollution.

By Oliver Willis - June 13, 2023
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West Virginia power plant
American Electric Power's John Amos coal-fired plant in Winfield, West Virginia, is seen from an apartment complex in the town of Poca across the Kanawha River on Aug. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/John Raby)

Two Republican lawmakers from West Virginia introduced legislation on Monday that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from implementing a proposal designed to significantly reduce deadly emissions from coal- and gas-fired plants.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and Rep. Carol Miller introduced the Protect Our Power Plants Act, which would prevent the EPA from implementing a federal rule that would impose new carbon pollution standards on power plants, requiring them to be outfitted with carbon capture technology, use cleaner hydrogen fuel to reduce emissions or shut down if they cannot comply.

Capito and Miller claimed in a press release that the rule is evidence of illegal overreach and that the policy would damage their state.

“The Protect Our Power Plants Act would maintain America’s status as a leading global energy producer and prevent the EPA’s current proposal from inflicting further damage on our state,” Capito said in the release.

The EPA has said that the proposed rules, which the agency released on May 11, would significantly reduce pollution and would improve public health over the next two decades.

In a statement, the agency projected that the new rules would help prevent the production of more than 617 million metric tons of carbon dioxide through 2042. Carbon dioxide emissions are the chief contributor to global climate change.

“In 2030 alone, the proposed standards would prevent: approximately 1,300 premature deaths; more than 800 hospital and emergency room visits; more than 300,000 cases of asthma attacks; 38,000 school absence days; 66,000 lost workdays,” the EPA said.

The rule has been printed in the Federal Register and will be up for public comment until July 24, after which the agency can decide whether to finalize the rule as an official regulation.

Evergreen Action, an environmental advocacy group, praised the proposal.

“These rules are the Biden administration’s most significant opportunity to cut carbon pollution and build on the investments in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA),” the group said in a May 11 statement.

The emissions rule was released nearly a year after the June 2022 Supreme Court decision in West Virginia v. EPA that severely curtailed the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon emissions. The proposed rule is designed to comply with the court’s decision while cutting emissions.

The coal industry has criticized the proposal and has indicated that legal challenges to the rules will be forthcoming.

Both Capito and Miller have received significant political contributions from the fossil fuel industry. Capito has received over $1.1 million from oil and gas interests over the course of her career in Congress, while Miller has received $95,725 from the sector, according to campaign finance data from OpenSecrets.

Reducing carbon emissions from coal and gas plants would assist the U.S. in meeting its obligations in the Paris climate agreement. President Joe Biden brought the United States back into the agreement in February 2021 after former President Donald Trump had announced its withdrawal in 2019.

Biden has set a goal of making the U.S. energy sector carbon pollution-free by 2035 and for the overall economy to produce net zero emissions by 2050.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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