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Public Statements

Resolution Of Disapproval Of EPA Rule-Motion To Proceed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BYRD. Mr. President, anyone who has opened a newspaper or turned on a radio in West Virginia recently is aware of the ongoing discussion about the future of the coal and manufacturing industries. There is no doubt that the West Virginia coal industry and many West Virginia workers have been dealt a difficult hand over the past ten years, and are indeed facing some uncertainty about their futures. Such uncertainty is a pressing public concern for our State--and for many other States--and Senator Murkowski has sought to propose a resolution that she evidently feels would respond to those concerns. However, we need to do something other than hold a political vote on the Murkowski resolution, which has zero prospect of enactment, and which would not alleviate uncertainty about the future even if it did pass the Senate. The Murkowski resolution would only foster confusion. I believe that the best and most practical course of action is for the Senate to pass a bill that provides certainty and real answers for West Virginians and all Americans--a bill that will be passed by the Congress and signed by the President before new requirements that would broadly affect our economy are imposed by regulation.

I understand that the Senate Democratic leadership is willing to move forward on a bill that pre-empts EPA action, and can win 60 votes in the Senate, be approved by the House, and be signed by the President into law. Senator Rockefeller recently proposed legislation to provide a temporary pre-emption of EPA. I know that I am joined by many others in West Virginia in my belief that the Senate find a way to accomplish that objective--an objective that I know Senator Rockefeller and I both share.

I have recently secured commitments from my fellow Senators to provide on the order of $2 billion for each major power plant that installs clean coal technology during the coming decades--with additional funding available to larger projects. I am also negotiating a commitment to provide the West Virginia region with billions more annually to strengthen new and existing regional businesses, to complete the construction of better highways, and to provide other critical investments to ensure that the next generation of West Virginians will have a bright future at home in the Mountain State. President Obama has also assured me of his ongoing support for these priorities of mine.

The way to ensure that we make these transformative new investments in the future of West Virginia, and in the Appalachian coal industry, is for Congress to do the difficult work of enacting the necessary policies. The Murkowski resolution does not accomplish that objective, and it may even undercut our ability to achieve it. The resolution is an open-ended denunciation of many leading scientific studies and regulatory initiatives. Were it to be enacted, the resolution could actually hamper important Federal initiatives--including rules that will assist in the deployment of clean coal technologies like carbon capture and storage. I also note that the Murkowski resolution is being considered by the Senate via an unusual legislative process that constrains debate and prohibits Senators from offering amendments.

As I have said before, to deny the mounting science of climate change is to stick our heads in the sand and say ``deal me out'' of the future. But we have also allowed ourselves to ignore other realities. It is a simple fact that the costs of producing and consuming Central Appalachian coal continue to rise rapidly. Older coal-fired powerplants are being closed down, and they appear unlikely to be replaced by new coal plants unless we very soon adopt several major changes in federal energy policy. In 2009, American power companies generated less of their electricity from coal than they have at any other time in recent memory. In the last month alone, two major power companies have reportedly announced that they will idle or permanently close over a dozen coal-fired powerplant units that have consumed millions of tons of West Virginia coal in recent years. Moreover, an even larger portion of America's aging fleet of coal-fired powerplants could be at risk of being permanently closed in the coming years--and the ability to sell coal in those markets could be lost for an indefinite period, if there is no new Federal energy policy to support the construction of new coal plants.

Some companies may feel that it is helpful for Congress to go on denouncing a new energy policy that makes it once more attractive to build new coal plants. But those companies are taking this opportunity to invest in natural gas, or other types of investments. They are not thinking about fighting for the longer term future of coal jobs and other jobs in West Virginia. I am. In the meantime, what happens to the miners, other workers, local governments, and many West Virginia citizens during the course of further delay on a new energy bill? They continue to be laid off, and to struggle with insufficient revenue, and to remain frustrated about their uncertain future.

So, there is a long list of compelling reasons to oppose this resolution, and a rather short list of reasons to support it. For the sake of West Virginia's best interests, and the vital longer-term interests of our Nation and our world, the Senate must now move promptly to take responsible, decisive, and effective action on a moderate but major new energy policy.


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