Last week, the Senate narrowly defeated Sen. Lisa Murkowski's "gut the EPA" amendment. Six Democrats crossed the aisle to vote for the amendment, with one of those being Sen. Jay Rockefeller of WV. In his comments, he said the following:
"I don’t want EPA turning out the lights on America. I fight for my people. I understand that I’m a United States senator. But I’m a United States senator from West Virginia. You can’t run this country without coal. I am for all alternative fuels ... but you add them all up, nobody can make the point you can do any of this without coal. We mine coal. I’m elected to protect my people and my country. But first comes my people, and especially on this issue."
Senator, the coal industry is dying, & everyone seems to see it but you.
Today, Siemens announced a deal to supply five new high-efficiency gas plants to Progress Energy at two sites in North Carolina that have old coal-fired generators. The H.F. Lee Energy Complex, near Goldsboro, has three coal-fired generators that began operating in 1951, 1952 and 1962. The Sutton plant, near Wilmington, has 3 coal-fired generators that went into service in 1954, 1955 and 1972. Per kilowatt-hour generated, the gas-fired generators will reduce CO2 emissions by 60 percent and nitrogen oxides by 95 percent from levels produced by the coal-fired plants. Nearly 100 percent of sulfur dioxides and all mercury will be eliminated. Siemens will also provide six gas turbine generators to Florida Power & Light, which will use them to replace generators at Riviera Beach and Cape Canaveral that are able to burn oil or gas. The new generators will produce far more electricity per cubic foot of gas burned & reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and gases at the same time.
Progress energy made another announcement today. By the end of 2017, the company intends to permanently shut down all of its remaining N.C. coal-fired power plants that do not have flue-gas desulfurization controls, aka scrubbers. The utility plans to close a total of 11 coal-fired units, totaling nearly 1,500 megawatts (MW) at four sites in the state-H.F. Lee, L.V. Sutton, Cape Fear near Moncure, & W.H. Weatherspoon near Lumberton. These plants represent 30% of the company's coal-fired power generation fleet in North Carolina & the closure will result in significant emission reductions, including carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury and other pollutants.
The question for Senator Rockefeller is this: if the people who actually profit from providing electricity have realized that coal is dead, why can't you? There is no future for coal. Sure, we will continue to spend money on it, because we need the votes of people like Jay Rockefeller. But corporate America has soured on it, & they ain't going back.
West Virgina has another option: wind. According to the NRDC, West Virginia is well positioned to be a leader in wind energy. The counties of Pedleton, Pocahontas, Randolph, Tucker, Grant, & Preston are especially well positioned to power the state. Wind power will create jobs. Wind power will improve the health of the people of WV and the entire nation. If Senator Rockefeller were really interested in looking out for the people of WV, wouldn't he embrace wind energy?
This isn't just about Rockefeller. After all, 5 other Dems joined him in that vote. Ben Nelson & Evan Bayh are from states that could lead in wind energy production. And Blanche Lincoln, Mark Pryor, & Mary Landrieu are from states that could lead in biomass & biogas. The problem is that they are so wedded to the past, and to the money those companies who want to preserve the past provide. A recent study showed that the American Power Act would create 200K jobs per year for the next decade. Many of those jobs would be created in the states these Senators represent. It is time they lead or get out of the way.