In a major speech on energy and jobs at West Virginia's John Amos power plant, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) vowed today to fight against the Environment Protection Agency's proposed new rules on greenhouse gas emissions and highlighted the connection between energy independence and creating good jobs.
"Not everyone sees the connection between energy and jobs, and that's why I wanted to visit John Amos, the largest power plant in American Electric Power's system. Here at John Amos, you use American coal to employ American workers to provide energy to Americans. When it comes to energy, what could be more commonsense?" Senator Manchin said.
During the speech, Senator Manchin said that energy production shouldn't belong to one political party or another. He pointed out that the plant's namesake was Senator Robert C. Byrd's first campaign manager and a Democratic National Committeeman.
"Now, who would believe that the largest power plant in AEP's system is named after a hardcore Democrat? Forty years ago, no one would have thought twice," Senator Manchin said. "That's because energy isn't a partisan issue. We all need power. We all want a clean environment. We all need good paying jobs. I'm fighting for every single one of those jobs."
Senator Manchin outlined his energy approach: using all our domestic resources in a true "all of the above" strategy. He underscored the grave consequences if the country fails to embrace coal-fired generation, which produces about 45 percent of the energy used in the country and is projected to produce the lion's share of energy decades into the future.
"Because although we can -- and should -- use other sources of energy like wind, solar, biomass, natural gas -- they simply don't cut it. When coal makes up 39 percent of your energy production -- and there's nothing else out there that's as dependable, reliable and affordable -- you can't survive without it," Senator Manchin said. "So the Administration shouldn't try to kill it. Instead, this Administration should be working on a true "all of the above' approach."
Senator Manchin highlighted his efforts since arriving in the U.S. Senate to fight for balance when it comes to the economy, the environment and jobs. Since killing the cap-and-trade bill on the day he took office, some of Senator Manchin's initiatives include:
Proposing the EPA Fair Play Act to prevent the agency from retroactively vetoing permits;
Cosponsoring legislation to push for construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline to bring oil from Canada, our closest neighbor and ally;
Proposing the American Alternative Fuels Act to allow the government to use more domestic fuels;
Proposing the Fair Compliance Act to create reasonable deadlines for utilities to comply with EPA rules so that jobs aren't destroyed, the electric grid isn't jeopardized and families don't have to pay skyrocketing utility bills.
The speech was the keynote event of Senator Manchin's two-week "Fighting for Every Job" tour, during which he will travel all over West Virginia to highlight the connection between jobs and energy independence, his agenda to help small businesses succeed, how to revitalize American manufacturing, the importance of training our workforce through higher education, and his growing effort to hire unemployed veterans.
Full text of the Senator's remarks as prepared for delivery:
FIGHTING FOR EVERY JOB -- April 3, 2012
Thank you so much for having me here today.
The last time I was here at John Amos was when I was Governor, and you were putting thousands of West Virginians to work making this one of the cleanest coal plants in the world.
There were times when this plant had as many as 3,200 construction workers on site, installing more than a billion dollars worth of scrubbers and SCRs. Between 2006 and 2011, at AEP power plants in West Virginia, you created 27.7 million work hours on environmental construction projects.
When I tell my colleagues why this country can't walk away from coal-generated power -- and that we can make it cleaner, I point to this plant. When they say a picture is worth a thousand words, I wish every Senator could come in and see this plant and what you do here.
And just as importantly, this plant is an example that when government works as a partner, not an adversary, we can put thousands of people back to work, and find the balance between the economy and environment.
Friends, I'm here today to talk with you about energy and jobs -- an issue that strikes right to the heart of what is happening in America and where this country needs to go if the next generation is going to have the opportunities we've had.
Not everyone sees the connection between energy and jobs, and that's why I wanted to visit John Amos, the largest power plant in AEP's system. Here at John Amos, you use American coal to employ American workers to provide energy to Americans.
When it comes to energy, what could be more commonsense?
And what you do here -- all 300 of you -- is just a piece of our nation's energy puzzle. Whether it's natural gas, wind, biomass, solar -- or coal -- West Virginia can -- and will -- help make America energy independent.
But we can only do this if we come together -- as Democrats and Republicans, as business leaders and labor leaders, working to keep the right balance between our environment and our economy, using all our domestic resources.
And then you look at me and say: "But Joe, how the heck are we going to do that with Washington as broken as it is?'
And you're right: Washington is broken.
Even energy has become a partisan issue -- there are people who say that some Republicans don't care about our environment and only want to get rid of all of the regulations. And there are those who say that some Democrats don't care about jobs and only want to make new burdensome rules.
But the truth is, they're wrong. Energy is a commonsense issue -- and it doesn't belong to one political party or another.
This power plant, where we are standing here today, isliving proof that energy belongs to all of us, regardless of party labels.
You all probably know that John Amos was a director for AEP and a native West Virginian. But John Amos was also a Democratic National Committeeman. John Amos managed Robert C. Byrd's first campaign for the U.S. Senate. He attended the convention where John F. Kennedy was nominated to become President of the United States of America.
Now, who would believe that the largest power plant in AEP's system is named after a hardcore Democrat?
Forty years ago, no one would have thought twice.
That's because -- and let me say this again -- energy isn't a partisan issue.
We all need power. We all want a clean environment. We all need good paying jobs.
I'm fighting for every single one of those jobs, and let me tell you a little about what I've been doing in Washington.
From the moment I arrived in the U.S. Senate, I have believed and fought for the balance between the economy, environment and jobs.
On my first day as a U.S. Senator, I made it clear to President Barack Obama, the Democrats in Washington and the EPA that I will always defend the energy that has made this country what it is: coal. And all the people that work in it.
It started when I told the leader of my party in the Senate -- Harry Reid -- that the only way that I could give him any support would be if he could assure me that the cap-and-trade bill was dead -- and would stay dead.
And it is.
I killed that bill on my first day in the Senate and I think everyone in our nation's capital knew from that moment that I'm not going to shrink from a fight -- especially when it comes to fighting for our jobs.
And what a fight it's been.
Not long after I took office, the EPA took the unprecedented step of vetoing a mine permitthat already had all the needed approvals. Spruce Mine in Logan County is projected to employ 250 hardworking West Virginians and they had spent 10 years going through the regulatory process.
But then the EPA said it doesn't matter if you do everything right, if you follow all of the rules.
They just decided to change the rules after the game was over. That's not fair -- and it's not right.
So I introduced my very first piece of legislation -- the EPA Fair Play Act -- to prevent agencies run by unelected bureaucrats from retroactively vetoing permits.
And just two weeks ago, the federal court agreed with me -- and said that the EPA had overstepped its bounds.
Thank goodness. Not a moment too soon.
Another commonsense area where we could start putting people to work -- now -- is the Keystone XL pipeline. When I was first approached about Keystone, my first reaction was that I'd rather buy oil from my friends than my enemies. When you add in all the jobs it will create, it just makes commonsense to build the pipeline.
My work doesn't stop there. How many of you would believe that our own military can't use fuels that are created here at home, like coal-to-liquids? That's why I introduced a bipartisan bill, the American Alternative Fuels Act, to make it easier to develop -- and use -- new fuels from West Virginia resources.
But as you all know, the American public hasn't seen nothing yet. The Utility MACT and Cross-State Air Pollution rules would put an unbelievable burden on the 45 percent of Americans -- nearly 150 million people -- who rely on coal for their electricity. Taken together, those rules are expected to create havoc in our electrical grid, force customers to pay higher and higher utility bills and destroy thousands of jobs.
So, along with my friend Senator Dan Coats from Indiana, I wrote the Fair Compliance Act to give utilities a reasonable amount of time to do the job that needs to be done. We don't want to do away with the Clean Air Act, we just want reasonable time to comply. That makes commonsense.
Now, here at John Amos, you have state-of-the-art technology that you're using every day. But the fact of the matter is that not every plant is in the position that John Amos is in.
But instead of trying to help utilities produce cleaner energy, the EPA is creating unreasonable timelines that will force AEP and other utilities to shut down far too many power plants that are needed in the system.
For AEP alone, 4,600 megawatts of existing coal-fired generation will come off the grid by April of 2015. AEP will have to refuel or retrofit more than a quarter of your capacity -- not an easy task. And it will take as much as 6 billion dollars to achieve compliance -- and who do you think will pay the tab?
Well, most of it is going to land square on the backs of average, hardworking Americans -- or those on fixed incomes. Some of them could see their electricity rates skyrocket by as much as 35 percent -- all because the EPA is making unreasonable demands.
Not to mention the employees who could lose their jobs -- as many as 750 hardworking men and women like those of you in this room. In our state alone, that means 240 jobs at AEP plants would be lost due to early plant retirements. As much as $40 million annually in lost wages. And an electric grid prone to brownouts and blackouts -- how does that make sense?
That's why we need to work together on real commonsense solutions.
Put aside ideology. Put aside politics. Put aside the blame game. Instead, do what we do in West Virginia: bring people from all sides together and figure out a way to do it better -- like many of you in this room have done time and again.
As challenging as it might sound, I know we can come together in Washington because we did it here in West Virginia. Here in our little state, we built an energy plan that uses everything we have -- and is supported by business, labor and environmental groups.
In 2009, we passed a comprehensive energy plan called the Alternative and Renewable Portfolio Standards. As of January, all of our state's major utilities will meet the 2025 standards -- this year. Thirteen years ahead of schedule.
And this law did not raise utility prices and it is not expected to.
To get there, our utilities are using everything we've got: cleaner coal, natural gas, wind, hydro and biomass. And we'll be generating electricity more efficiently, using more of our own resources, without customers paying a higher price, than ever before in our history.
In West Virginia, so much of our shared history is in energy -- and our whole history shows that we will always improve. We will always strive to balance our economy and our environment. We will always do it better -- now and in our future.
That's the kind of commonsense approach that this country should take -- especially because coal will play a major role in our country's energy portfolio for decades to come. By its own estimates, this Administration says that coal will make up 39 percent of our energy generation in 2035.
But instead of embracing this abundant energy source that we have right here in America, this EPA is fully engaged in a war on coal. You don't have to look much further than the newly proposed greenhouse gas emissions rules for new power plants to understand that.
Under those rules, we won't see any new coal-fired plants built, and that is a grave mistake.
Because although we can -- and should -- use other sources of energy like wind, solar, biomass, natural gas -- they simply don't cut it. When coal makes up 39 percent of your energy production -- and there's nothing else out there that's as dependable, reliable and affordable -- you can't survive without it.
So the Administration shouldn't try to kill it. Instead, this Administration should be working on a true "all of the above approach."
I'll give you some good examples:
Don't pour $500 million into a solar company that declares bankruptcy. Instead invest in advanced fossil fuel technology like carbon capture sequestration.
Don't cut $93 million from coal research -- and spend $2.7 billion on renewables that will only generate 16 percent of our electricity in 2035. Instead use coal more efficiently, like you've done here at John Amos.
This country has to wake up and live in the real world when it comes to energy.
Our government shouldn't pick winners and losers -- because when they do, the real people who lose are the American people.
So as your Senator, I'll fight this new greenhouse gas rule just as hard as I fought the Spruce Mine permit veto, just as hard as I'm fighting for the Fair Compliance Act, just as hard as I'm fighting for fairness for our state and just as hard as I'm fighting for every job.
Now, I want to address one major issue that has a huge impact on this country's energy future and our ability to create jobs and leave this country in better shape for the next generation. It's an issue that concerns all of us, no matter whether we work at John Amos power plant or go to school at John Adams Junior High.
That issue is the tremendous debt of this great nation, and it affects everything we do.
All of our priorities -- whether it's achieving energy independence, maintaining the best military in the world, keeping our Social Security promises or educating the next generation -- all of those priorities are in jeopardy when every single man, woman and child in America owes more than $51,000 for our national debt.
If you care about infrastructure -- our highways, our roads, our airports, our water, our sewer systems -- we must get our financial house in order.
If you care about educating the next generation, we must get our finances in order.
If you care about helping the vulnerable and keeping our promises -- if you care about Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start -- we must get our financial house in order.
If you care about energy, about finally ending our dependence on oil from countries that want to do us harm -- we must get our financial house in order.
Unless we own up to our coming fiscal disaster, we are not going to give our children and grandchildren a better country than we inherited.
If you're not willing to manage your debt, you'll live from hand to mouth every day.
In West Virginia, we know what unmanaged debt looks like.
Seven or eight years ago, people believed that West Virginia was hopeless. That we would always be challenged. That our finances would always be on the brink. That we wouldn't be able to invest in our priorities. That our economy would always be stagnant. That our credit ratings would always be miserably poor. That we wouldn't be able to turn any of that around.
But I tell you what. We proved them all wrong.
The people of West Virginia are strong. We're proud. We pay our bills on time. Businesses know that when they move here, they're going to operate in a state that says what it means and means what it says -- and that we know the value of living within our means.
Together, we weathered a recession better than 45 other states. And we put our financial house in order.
And Washington needs to start doing business more like West Virginia. Our future depends on it.
Because America is still the hope of the world. And we will stay the hope of the world. Our people are strong and proud.
We have the energy -- and innovative spirit -- right here on our own shores that will power this country for generations to come.
We can stand up for coal and domestic energy. We can stand up for what is right for West Virginia. We can stand up for what is right for this great nation.
And I will promise you this: If we fight for every job, put our finances in order, if we rely on all the energy that we have here at home -- no one can stop us.
Thank you. God bless you all, may God continue bless the great state of West Virginia and God bless America.