CHARLESTON -- Below is an outline of the federal actions that have begun since the start of the Obama Administration and the 111th U.S. Congress. This list was supplied by the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce:
The Obama Administration and Democratic congressional leaders are advancing climate change legislation that will impose new regulations and lead to substantial hikes in energy prices, particularly for electricity generated from coal-fired power plants. Legislation such as H.R. 2454 -- the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES Act) and U.S. Senate's Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act -- aim to reduce emissions of "global warming pollution," establish a cap-and-trade system, and encourage carbon capture technologies. However, the bills will cause energy prices to increase on all consumers (businesses, individuals, governments, etc.) and will cost thousands and thousands of jobs.
A recent study by the National Association of Manufacturers estimates HR 2454 would cost 1.7 million to 2.4 million jobs nationally by 2030. And, preliminary estimates by WVU's Bureau of Economic Research shows that West Virginia stands to lose 35,000+ jobs and tens of millions in annual tax revenues.
EPA Moving To Regulate GHGs/Carbon Dioxide As Pollutants
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced December 7, 2009 that it had declared greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), including carbon dioxide, threaten the public health and welfare of the American people. The announcement is the prerequisite for "strong new emissions standards," according to the EPA.
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In April 2009 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency started the first formal steps in listing carbon dioxide and methane as pollutants and eventually developing regulations and controls. The EPA issued its proposed finding on April 1, 2009 and stated "greenhouse gases contribute to air pollution that may endanger public health or welfare." The EPA's announcement initiated a public comment period on six greenhouse gases that "pose a potential threat." Among these are carbon dioxide and methane. For more information, go to http://epa.gov/climatechange/endangerment.html.
EPA 'Reviewing' Coal Mining Permits
The United States Environmental Protection Agency announced March 24, 2009 (click to read) that the agency would begin reviews of federal mining permits because of "serious concerns about the need to reduce the potential harmful impacts on water quality caused by certain types of coal mining practices, such as mountaintop mining." The agency said it was taking this step because it has "considerable concern regarding the environmental impact these projects would have on fragile habitats and streams." Since this announcement, the EPA continues to hold up 79 permit applications, of which 23 are in West Virginia.
EPA To Require Greenhouse Gas Emission Permits
In late September 2009 the U.S. EPA launched a new regulatory initiative designed to "address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under the Clean Air Act." The EPA's latest proposal will require large industrial facilities, which emit at least 25,000 tons of GHGs, a year to obtain construction and operating permits covering these emissions. "These permits must demonstrate the use of best available control technologies and energy efficiency measures to minimize GHG emissions when facilities are constructed or significantly modified." According to the EPA's proposed rule, these large facilities would include power plants, refineries, and factories. Small businesses such as farms, restaurants and many other types of small facilities would not be included in these requirements. Click to see the proposed rules or for more information: http://www.epa.gov/nsr
EPA To Tighten SO2 Standards From Coal
For the first time in nearly 40 years, the U.S. EPA is proposing to tighten the nation's sulfur dioxide (SO2) air quality standard to "protect public health." This change, announced in November 2009, will affect coal-fired power plants and other industrial facilities. Click here to read more.
EPA To Regulate Coal Combustion Byproducts As Hazardous Waste
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to issue a proposed rule regulating coal combustion byproducts (CCBs) as hazardous waste by the end of 2009. The rule is currently being reviewed by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and the Small Business Administration. Regulation CCBs as hazardous waste will have potentially devastating economic impacts on the economy. Regulating CCBs as hazardous waste will increase the price of electricity for both businesses and consumers as power generators face higher compliance, transportation, storage, handling, and disposal costs.
U.S. Department of Interior Plans To Increase Coal Mining Oversight, New Stream Rules
The U.S. Department of the Interior announced November 18 that it is taking immediate actions to strengthen oversight of state surface coal mining programs and to promulgate Federal regulations to better protect streams affected by surface coal mining operations. Interior's Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) is publishing an advance notice of proposed rulemaking regarding the protection of streams from the adverse impacts of surface coal mining operations. The notice requests comments on alternatives for revising the current regulations, which include the stream buffer zone rule issued by the Bush Administration in December 2008. For more information, click here.