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EPA Greenhouse Decision Huge In King Coal’s West Virginia

February 27, 2009

Morgantown, WV - A decision by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to treat carbon dioxide (C02) as a pollutant will have an enormous impact on West Virginia, according to environmental groups. The EPA reversed itself on regulating C02 after years of exempting the greenhouse gas, and will now regulate it under the Clean Air Act.

Jim Kotcon, chair of West Virginia Sierra Club’s energy committee, says the decision is important in a state where more than 90 percent of all electricity comes from burning coal – a significant producer of carbon dioxide.

"This ruling will have a major effect on the economy of West Virginia, in large part because our economy is very dependent on coal."

The decision represents an enormous policy break from the Bush era, but follows the direction of a Supreme Court verdict. West Virginia typically mines more than 150 million tons of coal a year, most of it for electricity. Kotcon says the state's coal-fired power plants will have to take the new rules into account.

"It is certainly going to have a big impact on new facilities that are proposed. It could eventually also have an impact on some existing facilities."

The Sierra Club favors setting renewable energy standards for the state’s utilities, which would encourage more use of energy supplies that don't emit carbon dioxide. That’s something Governor Joe Manchin has included in the bills he sent to the legislature this year, although Kotcon says lawmakers will need to put in a clear definition of what qualifies as renewable energy.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV