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‘Death by a thousand cuts:’ EPA releases final rule stakeholders say will shutter West Virginia’s coal plants

By Charles Young, WV News

WASHINGTON, DC — The U.S. EPA released the final version of its new rules regulating coal-fired power plants Thursday morning.

West Virginia coal industry stakeholders have warned the rules mean the effective elimination of the state’s remaining coal-powered electrical generation facilities and officials have been vowing to push back and sounding the alarm for nearly a year.

The final rules are intended to “to protect all communities from pollution and improve public health without disrupting the delivery of reliable electricity,” according to an EPA press release.

The suite of final rules includes:

  • A final rule for existing coal-fired and new natural gas-fired power plants that would ensure that all coal-fired plants that plan to run in the long-term and all new baseload gas-fired plants control 90 percent of their carbon pollution.
  • A final rule strengthening and updating the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for coal-fired power plants, tightening the emissions standard for toxic metals by 67 percent and finalizing a 70 percent reduction in the emissions standard for mercury from existing lignite-fired sources.
  • A final rule to reduce pollutants discharged through wastewater from coal-fired power plants by more than 660 million pounds per year, ensuring cleaner water for affected communities, including communities with environmental justice concerns that are disproportionately impacted.
  • A final rule that will require the safe management of coal ash that is placed in areas that were unregulated at the federal level until now, including at previously used disposal areas that may leak and contaminate groundwater.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., issued a scathing rebuke to the rules at 5 a.m. Thursday, saying the goal of the rules is to achieve “death by a thousand cuts to America’s fossil fuel industry.”

“It is obvious that the ultimate goal of these EPA regulations is to stop the use of fossil fuels to produce reliable energy in the United States by forcing the premature closure of coal plants and blocking new natural gas plants,” Manchin said in statement issued in his capacity as chair of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“The Administration is more frightened by political threats from climate activists than by the warnings from our nation’s electricity reliability regulators and grid operators that these rules will further strain our already at-risk power grid.”

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