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I would imagine, unless you’ve been incapacitated by the latest flu bug, that you have heard about the Supreme Court decision of last Tuesday night regarding the Clean Power Plan (CPP). If you were only paying attention to Attorney General Morrissey or other defenders of the coal industry, you might think that the CPP is dead and that the sun has risen on a new day for West Virginia and Appalachia. That is far from the truth and begs the question of whether the Attorney General is so desperate that he might “spin” the tale a bit in order to reassure residents that he’s not wasting tax payer money on his lawsuit.
What the Supreme Court did was pause; not overturn, the CPP until such time as the legal merits can be litigated. Hearings at the DC District Court are scheduled to be held in June. Ultimately, I’m confident that the CPP and all of its benefits will be implemented across the nation and here in WV. The CPP is an opportunity, if political leaders grasp it, for good- paying, family- sustaining jobs in energy efficiency and renewable energy production. That could include manufacturing jobs related to solar energy as well as other renewable sources and construction jobs for housing rehabs or new construction. The CPP may be temporarily on hold, but the fate of the coal industry and the shift to clean energy are not. Thanks to advocates across the country and here in WV, one-third of US coal plants are scheduled to retire, with replacements in clean energy fully ready to meet the energy demands in the future.
Furthermore, the commitments made in Paris by world leaders will move full speed ahead with the goal of replacing half the US coal fleet with clean energy by 2017. There’s no doubt that continued obstacles will be created by political leaders whose campaign contributions are contingent upon defense of the fossil fuel industries while putting the health of our communities in danger. But it will be difficult for anyone to turn this momentum around given the public, market, and international communities support for a change in policies and a plan to address the economic threats of climate change. Couple that with elements of the CPP that are targeted to help communities historically tied to fossil fuel production and generation as part of the Clean Energy Incentive Program of the CPP along with the Power Plus Plan, we are still well along the path. Congress, last year, extended tax credits for wind and solar for five years, giving developers plenty of time to accelerate the already record investments in 2015.
Here in WV, the Department of Environmental Protection and the Public Service Commission have been looking at ways that utilities can meet the requirements within the CPP. Those efforts should continue, despite the ball and chain that the majority in the State Legislature enacted last year (HB2004) while we wait for the lawsuits to be dealt with. It’s important to remember that while the Court directed a pause, it did not change the deadlines. So States that sit it out now will be forced to pull off last minute planning. I think you’ll see a number of states continue to pursue this compliance. Delay now will mean that the WV would have to catch up even more than we already have to in order to move us to that new day. If you want to help move WV forward in regards to clean energy and/or economic diversification, let me know.
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While I believe that the Supreme Court decision will ultimately only delay the CPP by a year or two, it is worth noting that every year of delay means thousands of lives lost to power plant pollution, tens of thousands of jobs in clean energy that won’t be created, and ever-increasing costs to avoid the adverse impacts of climate change. The window for solving the climate problem is rapidly closing, and the costs go up with every year of delay. While Morrisey fiddles, West Virginia is being burned, bull-dozed, and blown up. This delay has real costs to real people.
I should think that the stubborn fealty of WV politicians to dirty energy also means that opportunities to site things like solar panels factories in WV won’t happen; the plants will be established elsewhere by the time the cold dead fingers of King Coal and Queen Frack are pulled from WV’s throat.