WV leaders snap back on Obama climate vows - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

WV leaders snap back on Obama climate vows

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Unsurprisingly, West Virginia's political leaders were quick to respond to President Barack Obama's call for rapid action to address the issue of climate change.

Many of the proposals Obama is officially announcing on June 25 will likely have a direct impact on the state's coal industry. Reactions began coming out after the early-morning release of the "President's Climate Action Plan."

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., quickly attacked comments by Daniel Schrag, an Obama climate advisor, who said "a war on coal is exactly what's needed."

"President Obama failed to get his environmental agenda through Congress for a reason," Capito said. "Despite common sense and the voice of Congress, it appears he will unilaterally forge ahead with his partisan agenda. By shutting down the production of coal, not only will the president make it impossible for America to become energy independent but he could deliver an unrecoverable blow to coal-rich states like West Virginia."

A group of attorneys general from Alabama, Montana and Oklahoma joined West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Republican, in a response to Obama's plan. Morrisey and the other AGs said Obama is "repeatedly pushing burdensome environmental over-regulation."

"The president ought to instead outline a new commonsense plan for safe development of our nation's plentiful energy resources that will create jobs and get our economy back on track," they wrote. "This president's unprecedented use of the Environmental Protection Agency to enact overreaching regulations and circumvent state primacy has prompted our fellow Republican attorneys general to fight back at full force, and we plan to continue."

West Virginia Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas said in a statement that Obama and his supporters are the number one threat to the state's economy, industry and jobs.

"There is no sense in any extra-legal order by any president that will raise the price of electricity for every American. No one is served by not using the gifts and resources that God has blessed upon West Virginia," Lucas wrote.

"It's a time for choosing," he wrote. "We choose West Virginia coal. Obama chooses unemployment and higher electricity costs."

Nick Casey, a Democrat running for Capito's seat in the upcoming election, also issued a statement. 

"President Obama's climate plan goes too far. Congress should set policy not the EPA," Casey said. "The EPA changes the rules for WV farmers and energy producers too often. We need certainty and reliability with government regulations."

Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., called Obama's speech a "misguided, misinformed and untenable policy.

"If the President was serious about reducing carbon emissions and growing our economy then he should not be issuing these crippling regulations until a feasible means exists to comply with them," Rahall asid. "Technology that enables fossil fuels to be burned more efficiently and cleanly, could be developed in concert with industry, exported to the rest of the world, which is responsible for more than 80% of carbon emissions, while creating jobs here at home."

Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., said the speech was nother effort in "an unrelenting war against coal." 

"The regulations the President is proposing would cause thousands of Americans to lose their jobs and raise electricity costs by steering our economy from low-cost energy to more expensive sources," McKinley said. "... For years the Obama Administration has denied waging a war on coal, despite dozens of actions that indicate otherwise. Emblematic of the President's aversion to coal, one of his energy advisors was quoted today saying ‘a war on coal is exactly what's needed.' But tell that to the thousands of miners who will no longer be able to provide for their families, or the senior on a fixed income whose electric bill will go up."

Morrisey said he is disappointed in the presidents and plan and warns that it will send West Virginia "into an abyss of poverty, putting thousands of jobs at risk and putting the state's budget in jeopardy."

"Here in West Virginia, we plan to review every word of every line of every page of these devastating proposals to develop ideas for how West Virginia can fight back," he said. "Since West Virginia is ground zero in the Administration's callous plans to expand poverty, our state must do everything possible to prevent violations of the Constitution and the rule of law. Our children deserve that and more."

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said the regulations Obama wants to force onto the coal industry are "not feasible." 

"It's clear now that the President has declared a war on coal," Manchin said. "It's simply unacceptable that one of the key elements of his climate change proposal places regulations on coal that are completely impossible to meet with existing technology."

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said he believes the science behind climate change and understands the president's desire to move forward on climate change. He said he would like to see more details on the matter, specifically as it affects West Virginians. 

"Any action on climate change is going to have a direct effect on the lives of our mining communities that are already facing great uncertainties, and on the pocketbooks of every one of our middle-class families still dealing with a recovering job market," Rockefeller said. "We need more from the President to assure our miners and working families they're part of this plan. To begin with, we need to see a timeline, a cost estimate and to understand how communities that have relied on coal are going to be supported once these proposals take effect."

Rockefeller added that any roadmap to the future would require clean coal technologies.