MORGANTOWN – A West Virginia University professor says the EPA’s elimination of the Clean Power Plan will have little effect on bringing back coal jobs.

James Van Nostrand, director of WVU’s Center for Energy and Sustainable Development and a professor in WVU’s College of Law, says market forces, not regulations have undermined the coal industry’s future.

James Van Nostrand, a WVU College of Law professor and director of its Center for Energy and Sustainable Development
James Van Nostrand, a WVU College of Law professor and director of its Center for Energy and Sustainable Development | Photo courtesy of WVU

"The rollback of the Clean Power Plan will have little, if any, effect on bringing coal jobs back,” Van Nostrand said. “The adoption of the Clean Power Plan had virtually no effect on the coal industry.

“It was years away before the regulations would’ve been implemented in any event. And, thus, revoking the rule will have no positive impact on coal jobs.”

The professor called it “predictable” that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt made the announcement of the EPA’s plan earlier this week in the coal country region of Eastern Kentucky and that he used “war on coal is over rhetoric.”

“It is cruel to continue to raise the hopes of coal miners that their jobs will be coming back,” Van Nostrand said. “Coal lost the war a long time ago, and it wasn’t waged by EPA regulations. The foe was, and continues to be, cheaper and cleaner natural gas and the steep declines in the costs of renewable sources such as wind and solar.

‘In short, market forces are killing coal. And nothing the EPA does can overcome those forces. Scott Pruitt knows better. It is demagoguery at its worst, or best depending on your point of view.

“It is playing on the hopes and fortunes of a lot of people in coal-dependent states like West Virginia who are really hurting in the fundamental transition currently under way in the energy industry and who deserve better from their political leaders.”

Political leaders, however, continue to praise the EPA decision.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is hailing the announcement as a major victory in West Virginia’s long legal battle against the war on coal.

“Repealing the Obama-era Power Plan spells relief for every coal miner and family that depends on coal’s success,” Morrisey said. “This is a major victory for West Virginia. The EPA’s action makes it clear that such unlawful, job-killing regulations will find no support in a Trump administration.

“I’m proud that our office fought and led this effort for our state, the nation and her economy.”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) agreed.

“I am pleased that the EPA, Administrator Pruitt and President Trump are pursuing an all-of-the-above energy policy that acknowledges and respects the role coal will play in our energy portfolio,” he said. “For eight years, the misguided Obama-era policies attacked coal and our hard-working coal miners.

“West Virginia and the United States should lead the global clean-energy economy and with an administration working as a partner, instead of an opponent, we are poised to do just that.”

U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) also praised the move.

“President Donald Trump continues to keep his promises to West Virginia by rolling back this Obama-era extreme environmental regulation,” he said in a statement. “The so-called Clean Power Plan was a nightmare for the West Virginia coal industry and would increase home energy prices for American consumers.

“For eight years, former President Barack Obama waged an all-out war on coal and West Virginia values. As unemployment skyrocketed and coal mines closed, President Obama and his left-wing supporters focused on executing on his promise to bankrupt the coal industry. Thankfully, President Trump realizes that we can reduce burdensome regulations on energy production and protect our environment.”

State Senate President Mitch Carmichael agreed.

“This is an exciting time for our state and its coal industry, and we certainly should feel optimistic about the future,” Carmichael said. “I am thankful to President Trump and his commitment to both West Virginia and American energy independence, and for keeping his promise to lessen the burdensome regulations that were strangling our state’s coal production and harming the hard-working families who depend this industry for a living.

“The West Virginia State Senate has worked tirelessly to support our coal miners, and I believe this is just another step toward the resurgence of this great industry.”

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Office of West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) West Virginia State Senate

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