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Residents Sound Off On New EPA Rules

Reported: Jun. 2, 2014 11:38 AM EDT
Updated: Jun. 2, 2014 6:57 PM EDT

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BARBOURSVILLE, W.Va. (Darrah Wilcox) --Coal is a topic that's near and dear to the hearts of many West Virginians.

Many people in the region, if they haven't worked in the coal mines themselves, have relatives or friends who have.

"I got friends, and I used to work in it myself years ago," Lindell Marker of Sod said.

That's why many said the federal rule change, announced earlier in the day by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and designed to curb emissions contributing to climate change, not only threatens their livelihood, but that of future generations.

"I don't think it's a good thing. I really don't," Marker said.

The plan calls for a 30 percent cut in carbon emissions from U.S. power plants by 2030. Some say the change will only serve to benefit future generations.

"I think making this world better and safer for generations to come-- it's imperative," Taylor Blackwelder said.

Blackwelder, from the D.C area, moved to West Virginia about two years ago. She said it's time for West Virginia to move toward cleaner means of producing electricity, and is happy to see the EPA take action.

"They're doing the right thing. It's really easy to blame it because it's the government and we all have our opinions on that," she said.

Marker said he's afraid the move will be even more devastating to a work force that continues to lose jobs.

"Oh, I think it's going to have a big effect. I don't like to see anybody lose their jobs," he said.

Blackwelder said the economy should evolve.

"Everybody, everywhere - not just with coal miners, but we have to make changes everywhere. Learning different ways to make money we can do that.," she said.

Each side is agreeing to continue to disagree for now.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Heath Harrison) -- A group of elected leaders and officials connected to the coal industry spoke out Monday against newly-proposed rules on carbon dioxide emissions from President Barack Obama and the U.S. Environmental Protection agency.

The federal rule change, announced earlier in the day by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy (VIDEO) is designed to curb emissions contributing to climate change. It calls for a 30 percent cut in carbon emissions from U.S. power plants by 2030.

"For the sake of our families’ health and our kids’ future, we have a moral obligation to act on climate," she said, mentioning potential benefits in business, innovation and investment,” McCarthy said in the announcement.

The EPA said it is proposing guidelines to build on trends which already underway in the energy industry to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants, making them more efficient and less polluting.

In West Virginia, many political leaders took issue with the EPA’s move.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin was joined by U.S. Reps. Nick Rahall and Shelley Moore Capito, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, President and Chief Operating Officer of Appalachian Power Charles Patton, President of the West Virginia Coal Association Bill Raney and President of the United Mine Workers of America Cecil Roberts at a press conference at the Capitol Monday afternoon.

“In the coming months, we will work with individuals, groups and businesses across West Virginia to understand and mitigate the impact the new rules may have,” Tomblin said.

The governor said several proposals caused the group concern.

"If these rules are put into place, our manufacturers may be forced to look overseas for more reasonable energy costs, taking good paying jobs with them and leaving hardworking West Virginians without jobs to support their families," Tomblin said. "We must make every effort to create opportunities for our young people, not hinder them."

Meanwhile, outside of the press conference, officials and organizations responded to the carbon rule change.

The West Virginia Coal Forum expressed frustration with new carbon rules.

“This new rule, coupled with other recent emission-related regulations promulgated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has forced the closure or planned closure of hundreds of power plants across the country,” the group said in a statement. “ As coal-fired power plants close, the need for West Virginia coal to power them - and the thousands of miners who produce it – goes away.”

The West Virginia Sierra Club reacted positively to the White House’s move, saying the move will clean up the industries that they said create the lion’s share of carbon pollution in the nation.

“The new safeguards not only protect our health and communities, but they will spur innovation and strengthen our economy,” the Sierra Club said in a statement. “By transitioning to clean energy sources like energy efficiency, we’ll create thousands of new jobs and millions of dollars in new investment right here in West Virginia. Cutting pollution that harms our communities will also save billions of dollars in health costs, infrastructure repair, and disaster recovery costs.”

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D.W.Va., said the proposed rule change would hurt West Virginia’s economy. He said the rule change also failed to address the climate change problem with global solutions.

“The EPA has proposed rules that are not based on any existing technology that has been proven on a commercial scale,” Manchin said in a statement. “That is why we must continue to invest in innovative technologies, including clean coal and natural gas technologies, to ensure our energy supply remains accessible, affordable and reliable for all Americans. Our great country should be a leader in developing the technologies so that we can export them to the world, but it is unreasonable to require the use of technologies that do not yet work at the commercial scale.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- West Virginia officials are determining impacts from federal plans to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 30 percent by 2030.

An Environmental Protection Agency rule announced Monday is at the center of President Barack Obama's plans to reduce pollution tied to global warming.

West Virginia gets 96 percent of its electricity from coal, the highest ratio nationally.

The federal goal for West Virginia would drop emissions by 19.8 percent by 2030, compared to 2012 levels.

State Democrats and Republicans have long argued the administration wrongly targets the coal industry.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin spokesman Chris Stadelman said the office is trying to determine West Virginia's specific impact.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said he would take all legal actions necessary against the rule.

Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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