W.Va. AG: Stopping power plant rules will help coal jobs

W.Va. AG: Stopping power plant rules will help coal jobs
© Devin Henry

The state attorney general leading the legal charge against President Obama’s climate rule for power plants says stopping the regulation will end up helping the declining American coal industry. 

“I think that it would lead to more coal jobs, but it's difficult to predict what that number would be,” West Virginia's Patrick Morrisey said at a National Press Club event on Monday. 

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“We all know the cause of coal’s decline is multifaceted, but the regulatory regime, certainly from my perspective, has played a very important role. If you can reverse some of the regulatory carnage we have seen, then there is an opportunity to at least come back.”

Morrisey’s state has shed thousands of coal jobs as demand for the commodity declines, a trend started by the rise of cheap natural gas but which he and others say has been spurred on by the introduction of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan.

Morrisey and more than two dozen state attorneys general have sued over the power plant rule, and the Supreme Court temporarily blocked the regulation in February while litigation against it moves forward.   

The rule, he and others say, has led some utilities to move away from coal because they anticipated tougher federal rules on carbon emissions. Morrisey has advocated states stop writing Clean Power Plan implementation plans with litigation pending. 

“I want to emphasize that a stay is a stay, and people should put their pencils down,” he said of state environmental regulations. 

“Because while I don’t think coal will come back to its previous, highest levels, I do think there is an opportunity for some form of comeback, which, obviously, for the state of West Virginia and for our national energy policy, would be desirable.”

An ultimate Supreme Court order against the rule, Morrisey said, could greatly benefit the coal industry.

Such a decision could be contingent on this fall’s presidential election. Democratic front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPoll shows Biden, Warren tied with Trump in Arizona The Hill's Morning Report - Trump touts new immigration policy, backtracks on tax cuts Hickenlooper announces Senate bid MORE has vowed to continue President Obama’s climate work. Presumptive GOP nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSarah Huckabee Sanders becomes Fox News contributor The US-Iranian scuffle over a ship is a sideshow to events in the Gulf South Korea: US, North Korea to resume nuclear talks 'soon' MORE has been much more accommodating to the coal industry, winning the endorsement of a West Virginia coal group earlier this month.

If the Senate refuses to act on Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, either Trump or Clinton could end up appointing a replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in Feburary days after signing on to a stay of the power plant rule.

“Obviously the presidential election may end up playing a very important role in what happens with the CPP,” Morrisey said. 

“I am optimistic that, with the Republican nominee, there might an opportunity to withdraw these EPA regulations, and once again, that might give coal a little bit of the boost it really needs.”