MORGANTOWN – A report compiled by the Center for Energy and
Sustainable Development at the West Virginia University College of Law and
environmental consultant Downstream Strategies LLC suggests that the impact of the federal Clean Power
Plan’s mission to reduce the use of coal to cut carbon dioxide emissions from
power plants could be lessened if policymakers work to tap West Virginia’s
other energy resources.
“Implementing the legislative and regulatory policy recommendations
in this report would create a climate that promotes new investment in renewable
and distributed generation technologies, energy efficiency, and natural
gas-fired generation,” according to the report, entitled “Expanding Economic
Opportunities for West Virginia under the Clean Power Plan.”
The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its
Clean Power Plan in August 2015. Under the Clean Power Plan, existing power
plants in West Virginia would be required to reduce the rate of carbon dioxide
emissions by 37 percent in 2030 compared to 2012 levels or, if West Virginia
elects to rely on a statewide emissions cap, by 29 percent from 2012 levels.
“West Virginia has done a very poor job of positioning
itself for this inevitable decarbonization of the nation’s electricity supply,”
WVU Law Center for Energy and Sustainable Development director James M. Van
Nostrand told The West Virginia Record.
“Our policymakers have wasted valuable time and resources futilely attacking
Van Nostrand said the EPA’s rules and guidelines are not too
much of an overreach for West Virginia, but, at the same time, the EPA’s rules
will hit the region disproportionately hard, given its dependence on the coal
industry and coal-fired electricity generation.
“The impacts of the decarbonization of the nation’s
electricity supply – irrespective of the role of the Clean Power Plan – are
devastating to many of the mining communities of southern West Virginia,” Van Nostrand
said. “The job losses in the coal industry are staggering, and most of those
jobs will be lost forever.”
Van Nostrand said the state’s policymakers need to move
beyond the ineffective “war on coal” rhetoric and start laying the foundation
for a meaningful role for West Virginians in the transformation of the energy
“Climate change is the most pressing environmental issue of
our time, and the cuts in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions required under the
Clean Power Plan are necessary in order to have any chance at all of reversing
the climatic trends that threaten the quality of life for future generations,”
Van Nostrand said.
Van Nostrand said the report demonstrates that compliance
can be achieved with minimal disruption to West Virginia’s economy. He said many
of the changes necessary to achieve compliance with the Clean Power Plan are
already underway in the electric industry, resulting from economic forces, not
For example, Van Nostrand said, utilities are shifting to
cleaner, inexpensive natural gas, and the cost of renewable energy, such as solar and
wind, continues to drop. In addition, he said, West Virginia has already achieved
a large portion of the GHG reductions required under the plan.
“Appalachian Power’s recent long-term resource plan
demonstrates that solar and wind, along with utility energy efficiency
programs, can be cost-effectively integrated into a utility’s resource
portfolio,” Van Nostrand said.
The report’s recommendations include removing legislative
restrictions on state planning, issuing revised resource planning requirements
for electric utilities, adopting energy efficiency resource and renewable
energy portfolio standards, encouraging greater use of the state’s natural gas
resources, adopting policies that encourage investment in clean distributed
generation resources, exploring options to partner with neighboring states to
develop an emissions trading plan and supporting integrated regional economic
West Virginia led a group of 28 states that responded to the
Clean Power Plan by filing a lawsuit challenging the EPA’s authority. On Feb.
9, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay, and oral argument in the
District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled for September. The release
said an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is likely after the circuit court