CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A bill sponsored by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., would severely harm efforts to develop and deploy technology to capture greenhouse gas pollution from coal-fired power plants, a congressional subcommittee was told Thursday.
Manchin has joined with Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., on a bill that would block the Obama administration's current plans to issue he first-ever limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants as part of broader effort to curb climate change.
On Thursday, House Republicans scheduled a hearing to promote the Manchin-Whitfield proposal and to repeat their concerns that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is wrongly targeting the coal industry.
Testifying before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, Manchin complained that EPA "is holding the coal industry to impossible standards" and that utilities are "still a ways off" from developing carbon capture and storage technology, or CCS.
But other witnesses at the hearing said that concrete rules like those proposed by EPA would actually help the coal industry, and that Manchin's plan to delay the agency would do more harm than good for mining communities.
Susan Tierney, an energy and economics consultant with the Boston-based Analysis Group, told lawmakers that the EPA rules "will help to clarify the rules of the road" for both coal and natural gas.
"Having clear rules and policy stability will help support a positive investment environment at a time when new generating capacity and investor support for billions in financing will be needed in many parts of the country," Tierney testified.
David Hawkins, director of climate programs for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said that the legislation "would not improve the lot of coal producers or communities in coal country."
"Rather, it would destroy power sector interest in deploying carbon capture and storage systems - the one technology that could provide a pathway for more sustainable use of coal," Hawkins said in his testimony.
For years, scientists have been urging major cuts in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to avoid the worst impacts of rising global temperatures.