CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller is touting a new federal Government Accountability Office report as proof that the coal industry needs to "improve its technology to become cleaner and to reduce negative health and environmental impacts."
The West Virginia Democrat had asked the non-partisan GAO to analyze ongoing changes in the nation's electrical generation system, including how new air pollution rules impact power plants and the system's overall reliability.
"GAO took a deep dive into the impact of new standards on energy reliability, and I greatly appreciate the extensive report," Rockefeller said. "We must address the health and environmental concerns related to the power sector, and this report shows that we can do it responsibly."
In a news release, Rockefeller highlighted several of the GAO's findings:
| Most power plants will install pollution controls to comply with new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards that limit emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants. Companies are investing to upgrade younger plants, and facilities that are being retired are generally much older, less efficient and have fewer environmental controls.
| The Clean Air Act rulemakings EPA is pursuing were put in motion more than two decades ago, when then-President George H.W. Bush signed the 1990 amendments to the law. "Whether President Obama is president, or someone else, these standards would still be going into effect now based on the timeline provided in the Clean Air Act Amendments and as a result of lawsuits stemming from former President George W. Bush's tenure," Rockefeller said.
| The benefits of these EPA standards far outweigh the potential costs. The new standards for power plants will reduce the cost impact to consumers over the long run, Rockefeller said, and "EPA standards aim to improve the health of people exposed to power plant pollution, which means a reduction in hospital visits, fewer premature deaths, and more work productivity."
The GAO report comes two months after Rockefeller delivered a Senate floor speech in which he called on coal industry officials to stop using "scare tactics" in their public relations campaign against EPA and the Obama administration.
"The reality is that many who run the coal industry today would rather attack false enemies and deny real problems than find solutions," Rockefeller said in that speech.
"It's not too late for the coal industry to step up and lead by embracing the realities of today and creating a sustainable future," Rockefeller said. "Discard the scare tactics. Stop denying the science. Listen to what markets are saying about greenhouse gases and other environmental concerns, to what West Virginians are saying about their water and air, their health, and the cost of caring for seniors and children who are most susceptible to pollution."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.