WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, released the following statement on the committee’s hearing to examine the local impacts of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) climate regulations.
“Thank you, Chairman Capito, for holding this hearing today and thank you to the witnesses for being here to offer their valuable testimony. In today’s hearing we will focus on the costs and benefits of the EPA’s proposed carbon regulations, known as the Clean Power Plan.
“I was born in Beckley, West Virginia, and have spent most of my adult life in Delaware. As a native of a small town supported by coal mining, and now as a Senator representing the lowest-lying state in the nation, I have a unique perspective on the balance that we must strike to make climate regulations work for each state.
“The debate on the costs and benefits of climate change action is not a new one. For decades, fears of the costs to combat climate change have prevented any real action on this issue in Congress.
“Since coming to the Senate, I have tried to work with my colleagues on a climate compromise that would use market forces to reduce carbon pollution and reduce the costs of compliance.
“As part of a compromise, I worked with Senator Byrd and a handful of other coal-state Senators on language that would have provided more than $10 billion in incentives to support the deployment of clean coal power plants. This language – along with other language intended to help the coal industry reduce its carbon emissions – was included in the Kerry-Boxer Climate Change bill, which regrettably did not pass into law.
“Instead of coming to a compromise on climate change – Congress came to a stalemate.
“Missing the opportunity to enact comprehensive climate change legislation in 2010 was tragic failure. It is becoming clearer that the price of inaction is much greater than the price of doing something. As each year passes by, the more severe, the more costly, and perhaps irreversible, the effects of climate change become. For those of us from states that are already being harmed by climate change, the message is clear - we can no longer afford inaction.
“Many states, such as New York and Delaware, have already taken action to reduce the largest emitter of carbon pollution - power plant emissions. As we will hear today, the economies of these states continue to grow at a faster rate than the states that have yet to put climate regulations in place.
“Unfortunately harmful air pollution does not stop at the border of states that have taken action. In fact, many states along the mid-Atlantic, which are sometimes referred to as the states at the end of America’s tail pipe, continue to suffer the harmful health and environmental effects of polluted air despite enacting aggressive measures to curb harmful emissions such as carbon pollution. That’s why we need all states to do their fair share to protect the air we breathe and stem the tide of climate change. The EPA’s Clean Power Plan attempts to do just that.
“Under the Clean Power Plan, states are given their own carbon pollution targets and allowed to find the most cost-effective way to find reductions. In fact, it sounds similar to the compromises I tried to find with my colleagues on the Kerry-boxer Climate Change bill. As we will hear today, if West Virginia takes advantage of these flexibilities provided by the EPA, the state will be able to meet the carbon reduction standards in the coming decades.
“The other reality we must confront is that today, coal is not as competitive a commodity in the marketplace as it once was. That fact remains, regardless of what the EPA does or does not do to curb carbon emissions. Unfortunately, West Virginia has been hesitant to take advantage of its other energy resources. We will hear today that the Clean Power Plan provides West Virginia with an opportunity to diversify its energy portfolio, which in turn will stimulate the local economy.
“No compromise is ever perfect, but the worst thing we can do is put our heads in the sand and take no action while in search of the perfect solution. We must act now while the ability to mitigate the most harmful impacts of climate change is still within our grasp.
“We don’t have to choose between growing our economy and curbing the effects of climate change. In fact, acting to stem the tide of climate change will protect the future economic prosperity of our country.”
Minority Witness Testimony
Karan Ireland, Program Director, WV SUN
James M. Van Nostrand, Professor and Director for Energy and Sustainable Development, West Virginia University College of Law