This EPA rule – two decades in the making – also moves utility companies ahead on employing technologies that will help guarantee coal jobs well into the future. Some utilities, including some in West Virginia, already have invested in technology and are ready to comply with the rule.
But across our state, there also are smaller, older and less efficient coal-fired plants slated for closure, not because of EPA regulations alone, but – as corporate boards decided long ago and companies themselves will tell you – because they are no longer economical as compared to low-emission, cheaper natural gas plants.
I remain deeply concerned about job losses. And I believe we need not only an immediate plan for job transition opportunities, but also a renewed and collective focus on the future – on the jobs that will come with new manufacturing and next generation technology.
In West Virginia, we need allies – not adversaries. But coal operators have yet to step up as strong allies and partners ready to lead, innovate and fight for the future.
Instead of moving the conversation on coal forward, some in the industry have demanded all-or-nothing, time and again, for the ill-sighted purpose of a sound bite or flashy billboard. These efforts make no progress, they don’t pursue attainable policy change, and they certainly don’t create or save jobs.
Change is upon us – from finite coal reserves and aging power plants, to the rise of natural gas and the very real shift to a lower-carbon economy.
Denying these factors and insisting that the EPA alone is going to make or break coal is dishonest and futile. Feeding fears with insular views and divergent motivations will leave our communities in the dust.
West Virginians deserve better.
Damn right they do.