Several hours before President Obama made the announcement during a speech on climate change, U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, Virginia Delegate Terry Kilgore and state Sen. Bill Carrico hosted a conference call to blast the move to impose greenhouse gas limits on existing plants.
All three Republicans characterized the announcement as a “war on coal” and attempted to associate the president’s new carbon limits with Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe.
“This is obviously very concerning,” Griffith said during the call. “Declaring war on coal is declaring war on Southwest Virginia and its economy and its jobs and its people because so much of our economy is tied directly or indirectly to coal. ...
“There is no way that our energy power generation companies can comply with new regulations regarding CO2 on new plants or on existing plants, so I am very concerned with both the regulations and the timelines that will be in effect on those if they are allowed to go forward. Obviously I will be fighting those.”
Kilgore, who represents coal mining areas like Lee and Wise counties, argued the new Environmental Protection Agency limits would have negative impacts on the local economy while leading to higher energy costs.
“Coal is an integral part of our delivery of electricity to the consumers across Virginia,” Kilgore said. “Not only in Southwest Virginia, but all across Virginia. Looking at what they are saying here, what the administration is going to propose, it’s going to increase prices dramatically across the state as far as electricity rates are concerned, which not only affects your consumer, but also affects manufacturing and a lot of different sectors of the economy.”
In addition to attacking Obama’s new policy, Griffith was also critical of McAuliffe, referring to statements he made during his unsuccessful 2009 run for the Democratic nomination for the Virginia governor’s race.
“To have Terry McAuliffe say that he doesn’t want any new coal power plants built is really just a slap in the face to Southwest Virginia and it’s part of the overall agenda of the Democrats in Washington of which Terry McAuliffe is one of the big cheerleaders,” Griffith said.
The legislators also said they felt the Republican candidate for governor — Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli — would better represent Southwest Virginia’s coal mining interests.
Following the unveiling of new regulations, the McAuliffe campaign sought to put some distance between his 2009 remarks that he never wanted “another coal plant built” and the Obama administration’s new limits on carbon.
“While we’re waiting on actual regulations to be proposed, Terry believes any new regulations should balance the need to encourage clean energy with the fact that coal is, and will continue to be, a large portion of Virginia’s energy mix,” campaign spokesman Josh Schwerin said. “Terry would be seriously concerned about regulations that would significantly increase utility costs for Virginians or result in the closure of existing Virginia power plants.”
Schwerin was also critical of Cuccinelli, saying the attorney general was willing to “abuse his taxpayer-funded office to shut down scientific research that doesn’t fit within his extreme ideology.”