Environmental attorney says Green New Deal wouldn't be good news for West Virginia

By Kyla Asbury | Feb 12, 2019

CHARLESTON – An attorney who focuses on environmental law believes New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal would not help West Virginia.

"It's difficult to see how West Virginia would be helped by the Green New Deal," David L. Yaussy said in an interview with The West Virginia Record. "West Virginia presently generates most of its electric power from coal and natural gas commodities that it produces and sells."

Yaussy, who works at Spilman Thomas & Battle in Charleston, said constructing, maintaining and operating enough in-state wind power and solar facilities to replace that generation would be extraordinarily difficult.

"It would also be much more expensive to consumers, especially when one considers that we would need sufficient renewables not only to meet existing electric demands but also to replace fossil fuels like gasoline for transportation and natural gas for home and business heating," Yaussy said. "On the other hand, a key part of the Green New Deal involves high taxes on the rich, and transfer of money to the less well-off."

Yaussy said given the West Virginia economy in relation to other states, that might mean a significant transfer of funds from other states to West Virginia.

"Good for us, but it might be difficult to convince other states that is a great idea," Yaussy said.

Yaussy said it's impossible to say what the Green New Deal would mean for West Virginia, or any other state because it is so vague.

Looking at the draft text of the resolution proposed by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez ... she is proposing: the net elimination of greenhouse gas emissions, 'massive' drawdowns of greenhouse gases, job guarantees to assure a 'living wage' for everyone; a guaranteed income; and universal health care," Yaussy said. "Each one of those is a huge undertaking that would take enormous amounts of money to achieve if we could even reach a consensus on how to proceed."

Yaussy said without more details, no one can tell exactly what the Green New Deal would entail, other than high taxes and expanded government programs.

Yaussy said as a practical matter, the technology does not currently exist that would allow the nation to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions.

"Even if taxes were raised to high levels to fund the Green New Deal, we can't realistically build enough wind power and solar power, or install sufficient carbon sequestration, over the next 10 years to replace all the fossil fuels used for transportation, heating, cooling, manufacturing, agriculture and electric generation that modern civilization requires," Yaussy said.

Not only would it take years to develop the necessary renewable energy infrastructure, but they would also remain unable to provide reliable power without dedicating huge amounts of money to power storage, through batteries, flywheels or other means, Yaussy said.

"Incorporating renewables into our energy mix is a reasonable course of action, and is occurring and growing every day," Yaussy said. "It would make sense to encourage that sort of natural, market-driven process. However, to try to force huge changes in the economy in a Soviet-style national 10-year plan would have wrenching effects that would, in the end, cause more harm than good."

Ocasio-Cortez said in a January CNBC article that people needed to "start paying their fair share in taxes" to underwrite her Green New Deal. She also suggested a tax rate for the wealthiest Americans could be set at 60 to 70 percent.

Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal includes generating all of the nation's power from renewable sources and eliminating industrial greenhouse gas emissions.

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