CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The new president of Appalachian Power said Wednesday that congressional action to cap greenhouse gas emissions is needed to help guide utilities in perfecting and deploying technology to limit those emissions.
Charles Patton said Appalachian and its parent company, American Electric Power, had hoped the U.S. Senate would pass legislation similar to what was approved by the House last year.
"We were disappointed that no action was taken," Patton said during a meeting with Gazette editors.
"We understand why there was great opposition in the Midwest and especially in coal-producing states," Patton said. "But the dilemma we face as an industry is there appears to be some amount of inevitability that something in the carbon world is going to happen."
Patton noted that the Obama administration is moving forward with greenhouse gas regulations written by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but said congressional action would be preferable.
All three of West Virginia's House members voted against the climate bill, and U.S. Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Carte Goodwin, both D-W.Va., have said they would have opposed a Senate version if one ever made it to a vote.
But AEP CEO Michael Morris was a strong backer of the House cap-and-trade bill, siding with some environmental groups who also supported the legislation's efforts to help move carbon capture and storage, or CCS, technology to become a reality.
Coal plants account for a third of the nation's greenhouse emissions. While coal supporters and many scientists believe carbon capture technology can be a part of the solution -- AEP, for example, is working on a major test project at its Mountaineer Plant in Mason County -- there are major questions about the cost, scale and feasibility of equipment that would need to be installed on power plants around the world.
Patton lamented that climate change has become such a partisan issue in Washington, D.C., and noted that during the Bush administration some Republicans in Congress -- such as Sen. John McCain -- backed legislation to limit carbon dioxide emissions.
Power companies need legislation to provide them with certainty about what will be expected, and to give them time to plan new pollution controls or entirely new power plants, Patton said.