In a separate speech to the coal industry group, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., promoted his own legislation to block EPA from vetoing Clean Water Act permits that have already been issued by the federal Army Corps of Engineers.
"I believe it is absolutely wrong -- the unbridled power that these agencies have," Manchin said. "Or the power they are exercising because they think they have it. It's wrong not just for West Virginia. It's wrong for America."
Rockefeller is co-sponsoring Manchin's legislation, but told the coal group that "EPA-bashing" is not going to help the industry or its political allies in Washington.
"Eliminating the EPA or stopping the agency from ever addressing carbon emissions simply won't work," Rockefeller said. "And I promise you that most of the people in Washington who are pressing those ideas want a fight more than they want a solution."
Rockefeller said the defeat last year of climate change legislation in the Congress "was a short-term political win" that "didn't do anything to address the underlying issues."
"Major changes to our energy and climate policies are by no means off the table, and broader economic forces in the energy industry are starting to eclipse the policy," Rockefeller said. "The utility industry, the chemical industry, and many other major players in the U.S. business community are still pressing for a price to carbon in some form, or for a new clean energy standard, or both. They insist that unless and until we settle that issue, they cannot move forward with the clean coal investments West Virginia needs."
Rockefeller says he believes that global warming is a problem, but last year he voted in favor of a Senate resolution that said EPA was wrong to issue a scientific finding that climate change endangers public health and welfare.
Rockefeller said his greatest fear is that "we will win some of these battles and yet still lose the war."
"We must up our game," he said. "We have to increase the intensity of our effort to find solutions to coal's challenges -- not just fight the issue of the day, and certainly not get bogged down in rhetorical games or bickering over side issues. If we spend even half our time fighting for the status quo, we will be left behind."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.