W.Va. Democrat tells coal industry to devise solutions or get 'left behind'

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) warned the coal industry Friday that it must work to find solutions to the many problems facing the fossil fuel or risk being “left behind.”

Rockefeller, an ardent proponent of coal, told attendees at a conference of the West Virginia Coal Association that the industry must not focus all of its attention on blocking upcoming climate regulations. Instead, the industry should work to develop technology to reduce the greenhouse gases emitted during coal-fired power production so that coal can continue to be a competitive source of electricity.

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“We must up our game. We have to increase the intensity of our effort to find solutions to coal’s challenges – not just fight the issue of the day, and certainly not get bogged down in rhetorical games or bickering over side issues,” he said, according to prepared remarks. “If we spend even half of our time fighting for the status quo, we will be left behind.”

Rockefeller called for passage of legislation that would provide billions of dollars for the commercialization of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology, which keeps harmful greenhouse gases from being emitted into the atmosphere. He urged the coal industry to support him in efforts to pass the legislation.

That is why, he said, it’s important to delay the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) pending climate rules for two years, as legislation the senator has introduced would do.

“I’m fighting hard to suspend EPA regulations on greenhouse gas emissions for two years not for the sake of EPA-bashing — but specifically because we need time to move forward with a major new program on CCS and we need a serious seat at the table for any other proposals on climate change,” he said.

And he accused lawmakers who have introduced legislation to permanently block EPA’s climate authority of playing politics.

“Eliminating the EPA or stopping the agency from ever addressing carbon emissions simply won’t work,” he said. “And I promise you that most of the people in Washington who are pressing those ideas want a fight more than they want a solution.”

Rockefeller told the conference that the industry faces “an assault on coal from all directions.”

“Intense competition with natural gas, a declining reserve of easily recoverable coal, lukewarm investors on Wall Street, and the over-reach of the EPA on greenhouse gas emissions and permits are upon us all at once – distinct but interconnected challenges,” he said.