CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller on Wednesday urged a measured response to an Obama administration proposal that would require any new coal-fired power plants built in the U.S. to cut their greenhouse gas emissions in half.
The West Virginia Democrat said coalfield leaders need to do more to ensure that technology and financing is in place to allow utilities to meet the proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules.
"We need to grab hold of our own future, by working together to drive clean coal technology forward," Rockefeller said in a prepared statement issued the day after EPA announced its proposal.
The Rockefeller statement offered a stark contrast to the reaction from other coalfield political and business leaders, who harshly condemned what they depicted as just another Obama effort to destroy the coal industry.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin issued a statement that said the proposal would "devastate West Virginia and our region," adding, "I will not stand for it."
On Tuesday, Alpha Natural Resources President Kevin Crutchfield cited the EPA greenhouse gas proposal as the one government rule that would hurt the coal industry the most without providing any environmental benefits. Crutchfield also questioned whether any action was needed, given what he said was uncertainty about the science of climate change.
Most scientists and scientific organizations around the world say global temperatures are increasing, human activities -- primarily burning fossil fuels -- are to blame, and that reductions in greenhouse emissions are urgently needed to avoid dangerous impacts.
Under the EPA proposal, new power plants would generally have to limit their carbon dioxide emissions to 1,000 pounds per megawatt-hour of electricity generated.
Coal-fired power plants could meet that by using carbon capture and storage, or CCS, technology to cut their carbon dioxide emissions in half, EPA said. By contrast, a natural gas-fired power plant could meet the EPA emissions limits without any additional pollution controls.