CHARLESTON – Growing up in the heart of coal country, I learned very early on how important our coal industry is to our state, our nation and thousands of families throughout West Virginia and the Appalachian region.
I'm proud West Virginia remains a leader in energy production, and am as committed to making sure we remain a leader. Coal can, and should, power our country for years to come.
Last month, I joined West Virginia miners, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and many others in Pittsburgh to tell people the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should be working with us toward energy independence, not mandating unilateral restrictions on our nation's energy production.
The EPA's proposed rules would establish unreasonable limits on carbon dioxide emissions, devastating West Virginia and our region by eliminating jobs and unnecessarily increasing the cost of power across the country. It means our manufacturers may again be forced to look overseas for reasonable electric rates, taking with them good paying jobs to countries that do not allow bureaucratic agencies to mandate power choices.
As Governor, as a West Virginian, and as an American, I find it outrageous this administration would willingly put our country at a distinct disadvantage, especially when it comes to creating opportunities for our young people and security for our seniors.
We must have reasonable electric rates to continue to be a world power, and the proposed regulations would put that status in grave peril. Rate increases would become an unfair, unreasonable financial burden that would take money out of the pockets of hardworking people and cause significant consequences to our economy. We cannot give up on economic growth, but inadequate electricity supplies will restrict economic expansion at a time when our national electric infrastructure is strong enough to support it.
While I don't believe it is the government's role to create jobs, government cannot inhibit the private sector's opportunity to grow and expand our economy. These new rules would not only devastate our coal mining communities, they would have a significant impact on our coal miners, working families, seniors, small businesses, the dedicated workers who generate electricity and power our state's economy, and all who pay an electric bill not only in West Virginia, but across the country.
Since the proposed rules were introduced in June, we have been told over and over that states will have flexibility to meet these new standards, but the EPA's renewable energy goal for West Virginia - an increase of 600 percent - is simply unattainable. Cost-competitive renewable energy is not available in our state. The EPA must establish goals based on available resources and technology, not far-fetched benchmarks.
There are a number of academic and economic arguments against these proposed rules and I will continue to make that case. However, this issue is also extremely personal for me.
Growing up in the heart of coal country and as a proud son of the West Virginia coalfields, as someone who continues to make his home there, I see the faces behind these numbers. When the EPA's regulations force mines to close, I know the men and women who lose their jobs, the families who are at risk of losing their homes, and the sons and daughters forced to move away to find work.
Those West Virginians are the real reason I continue to stand up to this administration's overzealous EPA - to be their voice and share their struggles. We can, and must, do better for our communities and our families.
Tomblin is governor of West Virginia.