Coal states condemn outreach sessions

WHEELING – The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce and a dozen other groups have joined a national organization in criticizing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to seek public input on regulations in states most likely to be affected adversely by them.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy sent a letter Friday to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, urging the agency to conduct more outreach efforts in areas that depend on coal for electricity. Thirteen state and local chambers of commerce, including West Virginia’s, signed the letter.

The EPA is holding a series of 11 “listening sessions” across the country to gather public input on regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, particularly those fueled by coal. The tour is under way and continues through Friday.

The letter notes none of the sessions will be held in states that rank among the top 10 in percentage of electricity generated by coal, including West Virginia and Ohio. Four of the sessions, meanwhile, were scheduled in cities that generate less than 5 percent of their electricity from coal.

“I think it’s a glaring omission by the EPA,” West Virginia Chamber President Steve Roberts said. “It certainly implies that the EPA only wants to hear from those that are outside the coal-producing regions of our country.”

The top 10 states in percentage of electricity generated from coal between January and July were West Virginia, at 95 percent; Kentucky, 92 percent; Wyoming, 88 percent; Indiana, 84 percent; Missouri, 83 percent; Utah, 81 percent; North Dakota, 78 percent; Nebraska, 71 percent; and New Mexico, 68 percent. Those are figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The EPA sessions were scheduled for Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Seattle, San Francisco and Lenexa, Kan. Of those cities, only two – Denver and Lenexa – generate more than half their electricity from coal, at 63 and 62 percent, respectively.

“By avoiding the states that are most reliant on coal for its public input sessions, EPA has set up a one-sided process that will fail to provide an accurate reflection of public input,” Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the 21st Century Energy Institute. “Consumers who will face the consequences of new regulations such as higher electricity prices and fewer jobs should have the chance to tell EPA in person how they should be crafted.”

Chambers of commerce signing the letter in addition to West Virginia’s are Ohio, Alaska, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Greater North Dakota, Nebraska, Virginia, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, Campbell County, Wyo., and the Wyoming Chamber of Commerce Partnership.