CHARLESTON, W.Va. — In a sweeping announcement with pronounced ramifications for West Virginia, President Barack Obama’s administration on Monday called for a 30 percent cut in carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 2030.
While the state is already halfway toward meeting that goal, Democrat and Republican officials united in their pledges to fight a plan they believe will cripple an already faltering West Virginia coal industry.
“These proposals appear to realize some of our worst fears,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said Monday afternoon.
“The bottom line is: The only way to comply with these rules will be to use less West Virginia coal.”
Without providing specifics and acknowledging they needed to continue to review the hefty policy, many Republican and Democratic officials typically at philosophical odds with one another united in their criticism of the plan and a president unpopular in the state.
The policy, called the “Clean Power Plan” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is the continuation of an effort to curb pollution from coal-fired power plants first presented by the president in June 2013.
The new 645-page EPA rule sets a 30 percent reduction goal nationwide, using 2005 emissions standards as a baseline. States would need to start meeting interim emissions goals by 2020, gradually reducing emissions to the 30 percent mark by 2030.
“We have never, nor will we ever, have to choose between a healthy economy or a healthy environment,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in announcing the plan Monday.
West Virginia produces coal at the second largest rate of any state, accounting for 12 percent of the nation’s total coal output in 2012, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Coal-fired power plants accounted for 95 percent of the energy used in West Virginia as of 2013, compared to a little more than 40 percent nationwide.
Right now, none of West Virginia’s coal-fired power plants meet the state-specific standard included in the rule, Tomblin said…